Mealworm prank at Sachem East High School sparks water quality rumors

Students leave Sachem East High School after the final bell rings. A student prank left many kids believing rumors about the school's water quality.

By Noor Lone and Niki Nassiri

In a water fountain at Sachem East, three maggots wriggle next to the drain holes. At least, that’s what the students saw in a picture and video that started circulating on social media after being posted on February 28.

The picture, taken at a water fountain next to the girls’ locker room, was posted by a student on Snapchat and was then reposted by other students.

“I saw it on someone’s phone and that’s nasty,” Zacharia Miller, a sophomore student at Sachem, said. “All I’m trying to say is I’m not trying to get sick.”

The principal came forward to explain that the incident was the result of a prank. The bugs, he said, were put in the fountain by the same students who posted the picture and the video. The students have not been identified.

“Our water and septic system are working just fine,” Louis Antonetti, the school’s principal said in an email to a parent obtained by The Osprey, “We apparently had a couple of students play a prank and place mealworms in a water fountain to video it.”

The school’s administration did not respond to The Osprey’s request for comment.

Students, like Miller, believe the bugs in the water were maggots, which are fly larvae. Flies lay eggs that hatch into maggots on rotting protein material like meat. The larvae in the photo were not maggots, experts suggest.

“It would be quite extraordinary to have something like that in the water system,” Sarah Meyland, water specialist and associate professor of environmental technology and sustainability at the New York Institute of Technology, said. 

The high school and the district have not made a public comment about the issue. Some students still believe there was a sewage leak and maggots were coming from the water.

But Meyland says it’s impossible that a septic leak could have touched the water supply.

“[Suffolk’s] water distribution system is not going to be associated with anything connected to the septic system,” Meyland said. “It would be very unusual. Even if there was a leak, septic systems are designed to make their wastewater go back into the ground.”

The rumors may have spread further after a girl’s bathroom on the first floor was flooded and shut down.

Despite clarifications, some students at Sachem East may still give some credit to what their peers post on social media.

“People weren’t drinking from the water fountains because of the maggots,” Usman Shahid, a junior student, said, “But we only saw it in one water fountain at the corner of the school near the gym locker rooms, so it’s highly likely that someone put them there on purpose to scare people.”

About Noor Lone 6 Articles
Noor Lone is a senior journalism major with a minor in coastal environmental studies at Stony Brook University. She is apart of on-campus news organizations like the university’s radio station and video production club. She’s also apart of the university’s Honors College.