(NORTH SALEM, NY) --Results of lead testing of drinking water at the North Salem Middle/High School are back and indicate that 60.5 percent of all fountains, spigots and sinks tested had lead levels exceeding the limits set in a recently-enacted state law. The law states the amount of lead must not exceed .15 ppm (parts per million).
The state regulations require that “first-draw” samples are taken from the water outlets after sitting in the pipes between eight and 13 hours. Then, a second sample is taken after the water has been flushed.
Out of 240 outlets tested, including 11 in the school's bus garage, 145 exceeded the limit.
“Frankly, I was shocked at the sheer number of outlets that were involved,” said School Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Freeston,“The good news is many of these were bathroom spigots and spigots that have not been used for more than a decade.”
Freeston said he was also pleased to learn that all kitchen outlets for food preparation and cooking as well as hallway drinking stations, passed the water quality standards.
One of the spigots tested, a floor spigot in the boys' tested was 89.4 ppm (parts per million) for lead, or nearly 600 percent above the level permitted. A classroom sink in an art room tested at .827 ppm, or three times the limit.
Freeston said as a result of the findings, all conventional drinking fountains have been disabled at the Middle/High School.
He addressed the issue of “potable” water, as it has been the subject of some confusion in the school. All drinking stations, where students and faculty refill their bottles, have tested as “potable” (safe for drinking) as were the food preparation outlets in the kitchen area. All that are not safe for drinking have been labeled as such, Freeston said. Outlets that are labeled “not potable” are safe for hand washing, but not for drinking.
According to Freeston, the results have been shared with the Westchester County Department of Health, as part of protocol, and the district plans to work in conjunction with the health department to develop a remedy.
The school district's facilities committee is beginning discussions on how to remedy the problem and plans to meet in upcoming weeks with architects and engineers to come up with a long-range plan, not only for the middle/high school, but also for Pequenaconck Elementary School, whose figures were released in October.
The lead level results at PQ found of the 85 spigots, faucets and water fountains tested, 27, or approximately 32 percent, exceeded the state-mandated threshold.
While he would not speculate on a cost to remedy the lead issue, which is expected to be substantial, Freeston said the district plans to to test its outlets on an annual basis, even though the state doesn't require testing until 2020. The proposed budget for 2017-2018 will include the funding to increase the frequency of testing, he said.
When asked about the possible source of lead, Freeston said “We have lead-free faucets, so we know it is not coming from them.”
Gary Green, director of school facilities and transportation, said the high school was built in 1963. The middle school was built in 1968. An addition was added to the structure around 1999 and plumbing was installed at that time. He said there have been no piping upgrades since then, but all faucets have been changed or upgraded at one time or another.
In December, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced that both houses of Congress have passed his legislation which will establish a new $20 million federal grant program for schools that choose to test for lead beyond this school year. The funding for the so-called Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water Act, has been authorized through 2021, for a total of $100 million in federal grants.
“Our first priority must be keeping New York State children’s drinking water safe when they are at school and day care, and this legislation will do just that,” said Schumer.