MPS Students Question Water Quality at North Division High School

May 4, 2017

Freshman Tya Miller was among the North Division students who gathered outside at the end of the school day Wednesday, holding signs and distributing bottled water.

“My concern is that we don’t have clean water at all. All of our water bubblers are full of lead and they expect us to drink it,” Miller says.

Miller says bottled water is being provided, “But we have pay a dollar for it and I feel like that isn’t fair,” she adds, “We’re students here and we deserve free water.”

Tya Miller
Credit Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Miller says some of the water fountains at North Division were shut down, while others are still in use.

Although the MPS administration has assured students and parents that any running water inside its schools is safe, Miller doesn’t believe it.

“Because I did research on my own, my biology teacher did research and not all of the lead is completely gone,” Miller says.

She began to learn about the lead in water issue last February. “We have a student union group and we all got together and we thought it would be a good idea to get their attention because no one deserves dirty water. Clean water is a human right,” Miller adds, “I really want before the school year is out, we can have clean water.”

The students says part of their mission at North Division extends beyond water. They're also seeking to create a platform so the community hears their voices.

MPS spokeswoman Denise Callaway says concerns at North Division are unfounded -- there are no water issues at the school. 

“As a district, we have been absolutely transparent with the fact that -- though we’re not required by state or federal law -- we have tested the drinking sources in our buildings,” Callaway says. “We’ve also been very clear that anything that did not meet EPA standards was immediately disconnected.”

Callaway says MPS staff tested over 3,000 drinking fountains in its schools and buildings. And of those 3,000, 183 did not meet standards. The district is replacing those faulty fixtures, and plans to re-test them before putting them back into service.

Callaway says the district is holding itself accountable to its families – because when it comes to safe drinking water, ‘transparency’ is the key word for MPS.

“We have been very clear with the public,” she adds. “We set up a website, so people would be able to see the results of every single fixture.”

City of Milwaukee residents can access water quality information on the MPS website