Credit: Kaylee Tornay

“Current signage is completely inadequate at Dilworth Fountains,” read the subject line of an email Billy Penn received from a reader Monday.

Center City District guards who roam Dilworth Park apparently told the concerned reader it’s parents’ responsibility to keep their kids from trying to drink from the popular fountains.

But it turns out many parents aren’t even aware of the no-drinking rule, or the signs.

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Why the concern? Well … poop. After we noticed a lot of people abusing the fountains and a lot of kids drinking from them, we decided to test the water. So at the end of last summer we purchased an over-the-counter kit that showed that the water coming out of the fountains contains more than 20 colonies per 100 mL of coliform bacteria, which can — but may not — include E. coli and other bacterias commonly found in feces.

So yeah, don’t drink the water.

Playing and splashing in it is totally fine. That’s what fountains are for. But you should not be drinking from a fountain where a baby just sat in a squishy diaper.

After our test, the Center City District posted new signs around the park. They went up this spring.

The Dilworth Park signs are new for 2017. Credit: Dan Levy/Billy Penn

And then came the email from our reader.

“I  read and re-read that sign on line for about 5 full minutes looking for a difference between the first and second sign .  Who would even NOTICE that symbol – let alone fully understand it’s meaning when and if they finally did ?  It certainly is not listed among the “rules” — and further, I did not even see one of those signs – including when 3 of us looked purposefully around us to find one.”

We’ve gone to the park several times at all hours and can confirm the new signs are up. But the “no drinking” part is pretty small, and easy to miss if you’re trying to keep an eye on your kid in a sea of other kids.

This reader suggested a contest for artists to design more prominent signs. That’s a great idea. Here’s another: Go to Dilworth Park. Grab a seat and watch people of all ages enjoy themselves in the dancing fountains. Give it five minutes. Look at their feet as their sweaty toes touch the water that gets cycled through the fountain system before it sprouts back up. Count the soggy diapers on babies whose tourist parents just stumbled upon the park and decided it was time for an impromptu swim. Watch a sunblock-slicked teenager rinse her hair.

You won’t want to drink the water after that.

Shannon Wink was editor of Billy Penn from August 2017 to January 2018.