Malibu parents want permission from local officials to replace water fountains at Malibu schools with specialized water stations that provide electrolyte fortified, filtered water.
The May 18 meeting of the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District featured a significant discussion of sustainability efforts within the district and a group of Malibu advocates took the opportunity to request installation of the FloWater hydration system at Malibu High School, Malibu Middle School, and Juan Cabrillo Elementary.
These stations offer students and staff drinking water that is purified with three advanced filters; sediment, carbon and advanced osmosis. The system also adds electrolytes.
Electrolytes are commonly occurring substances that serve a variety of important functions within the body. Consuming electrolytes following intense exercise can help the body rehydrate and electrolytes are present in many common foods as well as specialized sports drinks.
The proposal has been taken on by Malibu parents Mindy Peterson, Jennifer Denicola, and Malibu Librarian Sarah Ryan.
“Students have been raised to be water drinkers rather than soda drinkers, and they like to drink water if it tastes good,” said Ryan. “Students need to be hydrated to succeed in school and in sports, and our students need to find the drinking water to taste good.”
Schools throughout SMMUSD receive water from two different agencies, the Santa Monica Public Water Works department supplies Santa Monica and Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 29 serves Malibu Schools.
Peterson said the water straight from the fountains contains bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants that can have negative impacts on health. However, she did not present any evidence showing the tap water was unsafe.
According to the Annual Water Quality Report for Waterworks District No. 29, the water provided by the district meets all state and federal safety standards. The report said all drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some containments likes salts, metals, pesticides, herbicides, or organic and chemical contaminants.
According to the report, while contaminants like lead and copper are not at dangerous levels at the source, they can reach dangerous levels if they are present in the pipes or plumbing of a home, business or school.
In 1990’s the district did extensive work in all schools replacing lead pipes and old facilities. With the recent concern from parents and educators, the district submitted letters to District No. 29 and Santa Monica Public Works making an official request to test the water for lead content. The last tests were finished at several schools over a decade ago and showed all sites tested were well below the action threshold. Additional tests have been requested to provide more timely measurements.
The Malibu advocates said students do not like the taste of the tap water and the District should provide water of a high quality to students.
Peterson said the district should approve a pilot program for FloWater systems and said volunteer donations would hopefully pay for the system.
“We are looking at the FloWater rental agreement, which appeals to the donors,” said Mindy Peterson. “The cost is $99 a month per unit which includes installation, as well as maintenance and service with a 60-month commitment.”
Parents would like to see six stations on Malibu High School and one on Malibu Middle School.
The discussion occurred during a larger agenda item on sustainability and the Board was not asked or able to vote on the proposal that night. However, several members seemed to support the idea.
At the Board of Education meeting, board members Craig Foster, Jon Kean and Oscar de la Torre expressed their support for filtered water systems to be installed.
“This is something we should move on to immediately. If we were to vote on this today I would vote yes,” said De la Torre. “It is all about health, safety and the wellbeing of our kids.”
The district has not approved the installation of FloWater stations, however they do plan on installing water refilling stations, providing regular tap water, throughout the district.
“We understand the growing interest in installing water filling stations on our campuses, as we enhance our sustainability efforts, and this is in the research and discussion phase right now,” said SMMUSD Spokeswoman Gail Pinkser.
Pinsker said any updates will be done with student safety in mind.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our students and staff and that includes ensuring the water available at school is safe to drink,” she said.
“We are awaiting test results from both the Santa Monica Water Agency that supplies water to our Santa Monica schools and LA County that supplies to our Malibu schools.
Based on annual reports of both providers, our water sources are high quality, and we are anticipating the test results through our fixtures to reflect these high quality standards.”
The Malibu parents said efforts to replace the fountains should account for the wants and needs of the individual communities.
“It is clear that the district and our administration understand we need water stations, but I think they are not moving forward with this despite the fact we have the money to purchase the units,” said Ryan. “They feel every school must have the exact same water stations and they want less expensive units. This is an unrealistic goal to have this be the case 100% of the time, when our schools have different opportunities and needs.”