News from the Research Commons

March 10, 2017

Spotlight on: Rachel Blakeslee & Drinking Water


“You’re coming here and you are this young white girl from this whatever college in the United States, coming here to learn about our water problems, and then what are you going to do about it? You’re going to take all the information that you’ve learned and you’re going to go back to the United States and maybe you’ll write about it, maybe you’ll tell your friends, who knows, but all that information you are gathering about where I live will never actually benefit my people.” This is what Rachel Blakeslee heard from an Ecuadorian tribal leader; now she is gaining a Master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Affairs so that she can do more than tell her friends.

After teaching in public schools in her native Texas and traveling, Rachel noticed that there is a “pattern of water problems that transcended boundaries and were prevalent in developing and developed countries alike.” Rachel is looking specifically at issues surrounding drinking water in public schools, compiling information about the amount of lead in Seattle Public School’s (SPS) drinking water. Her data shows that drinking water in schools serving disadvantaged populations contain more lead.

The problem? Lead is extremely harmful and can lead to severe cognitive and behavioral effects. Rachel’s research demonstrates the SPS drinking water inequity and the sad truth that “money follows white kids.” Rachel hopes to use open access, making her research accessible to those who need to know about the water they consume.