THE WOODS MAGAZINE SUMMER | 2013
When you think of tap water, often one word comes to mind: “disgusting.”
Many people on the William Woods University campus, as well as in the Fulton community, share
the belief that Fulton water is not healthy and has a bad taste.
During the fall semester,
Dr. Joe Kyger
assistant professor of chemistry, along with his general
chemistry class, went out into the community in hopes of discovering the truth.
The idea originated when Kyger realized the student body, as well as the faculty and staff, had
a notion that Fulton water was not safe to drink. He once shared in that belief, too.
Last semester Kyger was looking for a challenging and significant experience for his general
chemistry students that met all the requirements for a valid project-based learning activity.
The activity must be student-driven, it must mirror traditional learning goals for the course,
and, critically, the students must buy into the project. The instructor becomes the facilitator; the
class gets the job done."
As part of the project-based learning activity, students went out into the community to find out
where this notion came from. Project-based learning draws on the traditional coursework but
introduces a hands-on experience.
Class members surveyed students and community members about why they don’t drink Fulton
water. The majority of those surveyed said they did not like the taste, with health concerns being
their next reason.
Armed with this information, the students ventured to the library to do research on the history
of mining in Fulton. One of the possibilities they considered was that mine runoff might have
caused heavy metal contamination in the water.
They also researched the Internet for water quality data, regulations for tap and bottled water
and Fulton’s water quality compared to that of Jefferson City and St. Louis. “We have a right as
informed citizens to analyze our water quality,” Kyger said.
What the students found through their research came as a surprise. The quality of Fulton water
was as good as Jefferson City or St. Louis water.
They concluded that Fulton water was not only
healthy, but better to drink than bottled water!
The next part of their project centered on the argument of whether to drink tap or bottled water.
The students overwhelmingly sided with tap water for several reasons.
First, it is better for the environment. There are 1,500 plastic water bottles consumed in one
second in the United States, which averages out to 50 billion bottles per year. Of these, 80 percent
end up in the landfill despite recycling programs. They cannot decompose for thousands of years.
The second point the students made was that bottled water isn’t always as safe as tap water. In a
four-year study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the NRDC found that roughly
percent of the water tested in water
bottles contained contaminant levels that
exceeded state health limits.
Unlike tap water, bottled water is
not required to be regularly tested. This
means that contaminants could enter the
water without the public’s knowledge.
Plastic toxins, for example, have
been linked to reproductive issues and
cancer. Even if a contaminant was found,
bottled water legally does not have to be
recalled, and the public doesn’t have to
Finally, it is cheaper to drink tap
water versus bottled water. Bottled
water costs 1,000 times more than tap
water. Drinking two liters of tap water
a day only costs 50 cents per year.
To wrap up their project, the students
hosted an event on campus to inform the
WWU community of their findings.
A poll taken at the end showed that a
majority of the audience was genuinely
surprised and convinced to start
drinking tap water.
This was the first time Kyger had
used project-based learning and he
was pleased with the result. He also
found the experience as a whole to be
It was one of the best experiences
I’ve had at William Woods.”
percent of the water
tested in water bottles
levels that exceeded
state health limits.