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  • National Drinking Water Alliance

Chicago Public Schools Invent New Water Quality Device

To effectively and economically reduce lead levels in school tap water, facilities staff at Chicago Public Schools invented an automatic flushing device for water systems.

Michael Ramos, an engineer from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), invented the Noah device after extensive testing of school district tap water and determining flushing would be the best way to avoid water stagnating in pipes and absorbing lead. “Noah is a practical ‘plug and play’, maintenance-free device that requires no batteries, no internal clock to program, and has no filters or strainers to clean,” explained Ramos.

Extensive testing of the district’s nearly 12,000 taps found only 3.05% had at least one sample with over 15ppb of lead. However, 37 percent of CPS schools had at least one tap water sample with an elevated lead level. The district used a “5 sequential” sampling protocol to analyze where in the system the lead source was and permitted targeted removal of lead containing plumbing parts.

CPS’ proactive and innovative approach with Noah will allow the district to set the bar higher still, with a goal of reducing lead in tap water to <2ppb/L. Noah is a lightweight, low voltage computer that connects to a mechanical water valve. The device stores and executes a timing sequence that opens and closes the valve allowing water to be flushed out through the fountain’s bubbler. Noah needs a 110 v power outlet and is designed to be retrofitted into virtually any style of drinking fountain, including water cooler fountains. Noah does not interfere with the normal operation of the fountain even when it is in the flushing cycle.

To date, Noah has been installed in two CPS schools and the CPS headquarters, as well as being demonstrated at Chicago’s Jardine water purification plant. The device was presented during the "Let's Tackle School Drinking Water Safety" webinar series hosted by University of California Nutrition Policy Institute. Contact the National Drinking Water Alliance to be connected with Mr. Ramos.

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