We do not put a price on safety: MMS launches independent testing, updated water protocols

Mountaineer Montessori School Good Neighbors small(CHARLESTON, W.Va.), Feb. 10, 2014 — In response to the ongoing water situation in West Virginia, Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street, has invested in independent testing of several water sources within the school and is implementing an updated comprehensive Water Quality Assessment and Use Plan to guide future water usage at the school. The new protocols were developed in consultation with MMS faculty, Board of Directors, and MMS parents, including George Phillips, an experienced chemical engineer, and Dr. Elizabeth Scharman, director of the West Virginia Poison Center.

The plan includes a series of water tests to supplement free testing provided by the National Guard. MMS sought the independent review to provide deeper guidance for administrators and parents.

“We do not put a price on student safety,” said MMS Head of School Dana Gilliland.

Here are media reports on the steps we are taking to ensure safety for students, faculty and the MMS community:

 Private schools conduct independent water tests, WOWK-TV, 2/12/14

No end date for use of bottled water in schools , Charleston Gazette, 2/11/14
Private schools still wary of water after chemical spill , Charleston Daily Mail, 2/11/14

What we are doing:

Since the crisis began, MMS students have been drinking bottled water exclusively. Hand-washing stations using bottled water have been set up. Wipes and hand sanitizer are also in use. Elementary-aged students are allowed to use the bathroom sinks with parental permission.

The new testing procedures began Jan. 24. Samples were taken from four areas of the school and sent to TestAmerica, the leading analytical laboratory for environmental testing services in the United States. Results from gas chromatography/mass spec analysis of the water samples were received on Jan. 27 and were analyzed by Phillips.

All samples tested well below the levels of MCHM (1ppm) that the CDC has determined is “acceptable for use.”  Based upon these results, students will now be allowed to use sinks for hand washing with a permission slip from their parents. They may also continue to use bottled water, hand sanitizer and wipes.

Use of tap water for drinking, dishwashing and other uses that might result in exposure by ingestion will continue to be prohibited until the Phase II of testing is completed.

“The (Mountaineer Montessori) plan is a well thought-out strategy that clearly puts the safety of the students first.” Friends of Water


Moving forward:

Phase II includes the following steps:

    1. Flush for five minutes and then sample the filtered “test” fountain and remaining  fountains.
    2. After these samples are collected, install a fresh activated carbon filter cartridge on the test fountain and flush for five minutes.
    3. Collect second water sample from the test fountain.
    4. Include a non-MMS water sample from outside the WVAWC system (Putnam Public Service District) in the samples for analysis.

Once these results are received, MMS will compare them to samples taken on Jan. 24.

“This will show change in levels in MCHM in the supply line as the result of system usage external to MMS.  The trend will allow projection to theoretical ‘zero’ MCHM and provide insight into when the water may be utilized for drinking, dishwashing and similar purposes,” said Phillips.

MMS will compare activated carbon filter sample from the “test” fountain to the untreated sample to show effectiveness of activated carbon on MCHM removal.  The school will also compare results from fresh activated carbon filters to filters that have been in service for one week to establish recommended frequency of filter replacement.  MMS will also compare results to a sample that was not impacted by the spill (Putnam Public Service District) as a reference.

Independent, accurate, precise and valid data sought:

“This process will be able to provide independent, accurate, precise and valid data to guide our decisions and future water use policies.  We will not allow any student to drink tap water until all the tests are conducted and we have parental permission. This process will take about two to three weeks,” said Gilliland.



Water Bottle Art Daily mailMMS Water 1 small31-IMG_0458








Stepping up to serve, learn from the water crisis:

MMS has also responded to the water situation by:

•       Putting the Montessori peace curriculum into action by collecting and delivering hundreds of gallons of water to elderly, disabled and other citizens unable to travel to official water distribution sites.

•       Using the Montessori “Water at Work” lessons to help first through third graders understand water flow and disbursement and observe how water reacts when new substances are added.

•       Repurposing plastic water bottles into soaring, colorful towers of art marking this important point in the history of our community.

•       Help primary students (ages 3-6) negotiate the many changes in their world within the context of the Montessori “Prepared Environment.”

•       Conducting songwriting workshops to help students communicate their feelings about the water situation in music. These original compositions are being scored and students will record and share their water message throughout the community.


Founded in 1976, MMS is a private, independent and non-sectarian school providing a full academic and cultural curriculum to 120 students ages 3-14. It is the largest and longest-established Montessori school in West Virginia, serving an estimated 1,000 students since it was founded by education pioneer Mary McKown. All lead faculty have full AMS or AMI certifications, the two most widely-recognized credentials in Montessori education worldwide.


For more information, call 304/342-7870.