NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 13, 2013

Brown, cloudy water scores bad marks

AHS looking for source of bathroom faucet woes

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY – When The Standells famously sang “I love that dirty water,” this probably isn’t what they had in mind.

Shane Hague, a senior at Amesbury High School, was aghast when he went to the bathroom to wash his hands in one of the school’s bathrooms last week and a stream of dark, yellow, cloudy water began filling the sink when he turned on the faucet.

“It’s nasty,” Hague said. “How am I supposed to wash my hands when that is coming out of the faucet?”

Hague said he had encountered the yellow water on a couple of occasions before, and other students have complained about it amongst themselves. He said he wasn’t sure if the administration was aware of the problem or if they had tried to do anything about it.

“Something needs to be done because that is just plain gross,” Hague said.

Superintendent Michele Robinson said last week the school hadn’t been aware of the problem, but upon seeing a picture of the water taken by a student, the maintenance department was called to investigate.

Yesterday, she said the school hadn’t quite identified the cause, but believed it may have had to do with the school’s hot water heater.

“We noticed the hot water was on (in the photo),” Robinson said. “They managed to drain and clean out two of the three hot water tanks, and they’re going to do the third one over the break.”

Robinson said the school would conduct further maintenance on the tanks over the summer, but cautioned that since the school wasn’t able to replicate the problem, it couldn’t say for sure if cleaning out the tanks would necessarily fix the water.

“We tried to replicate it and we couldn’t,” Robinson said. “So until we can either make it happen again or whatnot, we’re going to keep working on it.”

Hague said he jumped back in shock when he first encountered the water and still couldn’t tell what the problem might have been. He couldn’t remember if it smelled unusual at all, but noted that he let the water fill the sink to see if it would start to clear up at all.

When it didn’t, he took a picture for future reference. Evidently, other students have done so as well, posting pictures of encounters with dirty water in the Amesbury High bathrooms on Facebook and Twitter.

Word among students is that the dirty water isn’t confined to one particular bathroom only. Sophomore Micayla Grinnell said she has encountered the water in the girls bathroom, too.

“It’s on and off,” Grinnell said. “One day, the water’s perfectly clear; the next, it’s dark, yellow and brown.”

Like Hague, Grinnell said the water was extremely off-putting and made her uncomfortable washing her hands.

“I feel there’s no point,” Grinnell said. “My hands would only get dirty using that water.”

Robinson assured students that the problem was being taken seriously and that the school would make sure that it was corrected.

“We don’t want that to happen again,” Robinson said.