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Rainier Beach High School water quality called into question

Concern rises following announcement made during MLK assembly

Elsa Anderson, Features Editor
Originally published February 16, 2018


At the Martin Luther King Jr. assembly, speaker Nikkita Oliver shocked everyone when she revealed that Rainier Beach High School had discolored and undrinkable water.

Oliver said that students and staff at Rainier Beach had been trying to get the water tested for several years, but no one would come to test their drinking water.

After further investigation, it seems that Seattle Public Schools in general has a problem with clean drinking water. The district’s water is tested at least every three years, with the next scheduled testing to occur during the 2018-2019 school year.

During Rainier Beach’s most recent test on Oct. 23, 2017, all but five water sources met the district’s criteria for clean drinking water. The Seattle Public School District site said that a sign would be posted near the unsuitable water sources, but did not mention a plan for fixing the water sources.

In addition, Rainier Beach High School has suffered from an additional issue in their water due to work that was done on a waterline near the school. After the work was completed, students and staff noticed that their water was discolored. In a statement posted on their website, Rainier Beach Principal Keith Smith addressed the issue. “We have been flushing all of our systems,” Smith said. “However, water in bathrooms—which is not used for drinking—may still have a slight discoloration. We are monitoring the situation to ensure that students only drink from appropriately flushed fountains.”

Principal Keven Wynkoop had not heard of Rainier Beach’s discolored water prior to the assembly. “I think that it got a lot of attention at the MLK assembly when Nikkita Oliver mentioned it,” Wynkoop said. “I followed it up, as some students did also, and I found out that it had been resolved and that it had been fully declared safe and tested and that as far as the school district and facilities were concerned that it was fixed.”

As of April 2016, 49 Seattle Public Schools (out of a total 91) were found to have at least one water source that did not pass SPS requirements for safe drinking water. The district requirements are stricter than national ones—allowing 10 parts per billion of lead or other substances as opposed to 20 parts per billion.

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Rainier Beach High School water quality called into question