Good student finds bad water

Foster’s Daily Democrat – March 1998

When Eric Baker, 9, of Durham tested his family’s tap water in his Mast Way School fourth-grade class, he was in for a surprise.

His results told him that the water he uses every day contained 250 parts of nitrate per million.

“I thought, ‘No way! This is almost as much as fertilizer!” he said. It turns out the nitrate level wasn’t quite that high – but when Eric’s parents had the water tested by professionals to confirm Eric’s results, the nitrate level was high enough to warrant digging a deeper well.

According to specialists, a high nitrate concentration in drinking water could cut off the oxygen flow in newborns or fetuses.

On Tuesday, Eric’s family invited his combined third- and fourth-grade class to their house on Packers Falls Road to watch the Tasker’s Well Company of Northwood begin digging their new well. The dig served as an example to the students of what a difference one child can make, teacher Kris Lynes said.

“When children see what they are doing in third and fourth grades and can have an influence on their environment, its wonderful,” said Ms. Lynes.

During the digging, Ms. Baker walked over to Ms. Lynes and asked her where her Jacuzzi went.

“It’s in the well!” said Ms. Baker, referring to her savings for a Jacuzzi going toward digging a new well instead.

About three weeks ago, Ms. Baker was at work, at Durham Physical Therapy, when she got a call from her son about her tap water.

“We brought the sample to Seacoast Analytical” of Durham, she said. Lab tester Steve Mosley “called me the next day and said, ‘Sally, don’t drink your water!'”

Ms. Baker said that her friends had always remarked about her nice plants, and wondered what fertilizer she used.

“What are you talking about?” she would ask. “I’ve never used fertilizer in my life,” she recalled with a laugh.

Eric’s class was participating in a unit sponsored by National Geographic’s Kids Network. Schools from all over the world participated in this unit, communicating with each other through e-mail.

As part of the unit, Eric had a choice to test either a sample of tap water or a sample of surface water from home for chlorine and nitrates.

“I decided on tap water because my mom wanted to see if the (faucet) filter did anything,” Eric said.

Eric added that it’s “pretty cool” to have the class over to his house for the well digging.

Before the official digging, kids asked Jeff Tasker, owner of Tasker’s, questions about digging for purer water.

Tasker told the students that there is no guarantee a deeper well will provide water with no nitrates, but the bedrock will provide more of a natural filter.

Bud Rollins, of Tasker’s, said that this was the first time he has ever had a classroom visit a well digging.

“The guys are really enjoying it,” he said, adding that most of the men on the crew have children at home.

As the men from Tasker’s began digging the well, the kids began jumping in time to the rhythmic sound of the drill.

Eric’s classmate, Elizabeth Hamer, 9, said it was “pretty neat” to watch a well digging.

“I’ve never seen a well being dug before,” she said. “I have one at my house but I’ve never seen somebody dig one.”

Elliott Baker, Eric’s dad, stood outside and watched the drilling with the students. When asked what he thought of the project, he said, “Financially it’s not very exciting, but I’m glad the whole thing happened … It’s fun.”

The project gives a chance to see “real-life” results of scientific inquiry, he said.

“Besides, as a kid I was always looking for a way to get out of a classroom,” he said smiling.