October 2011

Drinking fountains

Before you take a sip, do you ever pause to wonder how clean the drinking fountain is?

In 1917, public health researchers had the same thought about the water fountains all across the University of Minnesota campus.

The 1917 report, “Drinking Fountains: Investigation of Fountains at the University of Minnesota,” by H.A. Whittaker and published by the United States Public Health Service looks into the sanitary conditions of the drinking fountains and offers recommendations on their improvement. The report identifies the source of the contamination as well as documents the occurrences of streptococci and B. coli.

And it names names, meaning, it gives the location of all the offending drinking fountains. Perhaps there is a fountain on the list that you still use every day.

The report found that all 77 fountains were improperly constructed and allowed for contamination by the consumer. Tests found 80% to be contaminated with strep and 11% to have contaminants not found in the supply water line. It concluded that drinking fountains were a source of transmission of communicable diseases that could be remedied.

Take a sip of water and read the report below.