Update Given on School Elevated Lead Levels


NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— The North Salem Central School District continues to address the issue of lead in its water system.  Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Freeston updated members of the Board of Education on the  water remediation process at its meeting on April 18.

“We can tell you now, that as a result of (Director of School Facilities and Transportation) Gary’s (Greene) work with the architects and the facilities committee, all of our water fountains will be replaced by drinking stations, either through the bond project or through internal funding,” Freeston said.

Freeston said they recently received test results from the Middle/High School garden, which found that the hoses there did not have dangerous lead levels.

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“We are safe for the garden soil, which was a large concern,” he said, “Which is why we were planting flowers at first because we wanted to be certain we had the test results back.”

Freeston went on to add, “Just to be safe, there will be signs placed by the garden hoses  telling students and faculty to run the water for 30 seconds before using the hose on the plants.”

Back in October, the district tested lead levels in drinking water in the potable water outlets at Pequenakonck Elementary School to comply with a recently-enacted state law.

Of the 85 spigots, faucets and water outlets that were tested, 27, or approximately 32 percent, exceeded the new lead threshold of 0.15 ppm (parts per million). Most of those that tested positive at PQ were slop sinks, restroom sinks and outside spigots. All but one of the school’s water fountains were below the threshold except for one water fountain.

Lead levels were also tested in the drinking water at North Salem Middle/High School. Results found that 60.5 percent of all fountains, spigots and sinks had lead levels exceeding the 0.15 ppm threshold.

The superintendent also updated board members on the testing of water in its ice machines. He said initially the school was told not to test ice machines because they are   “a direct feed,” where the water lines go right into the machine.  Freeston explained that the county health department  originally didn’t require ice machines to be tested for lead  because it would be difficult to say whether the lead came from the plumbing line or the ice machine itself.

He said after Green pressed the health department on the need to test ice machines, they changed the protocol.

“First they were proposing that the school district drain all of the existing ice, run it at first draw, and then when the ice tub was full, melt it and test that water,” explained Freeston. The school district was planning to test it when the health department announced it was re-evaluating the protocol.

While the district is awaiting a response, it plans to go ahead with testing.

“We are going to go ahead and do it anyway,” said Green, “Just to get a sense of what we have for our own peace of mind.”

“If it’s the ice machine, we just get a new ice machine,” Freeston noted. “It’s not like it’s a major, major expense.”

He plans to release the findings of the testing as soon as results are known.

 “We think we are way ahead of the issue and the challenges,” Freeston said.

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