SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – The school district is taking on the task of testing some 528 water outlets in all of its buildings for lead levels, Superintendent Dr. Gary McCartney said during the Aug. 29 Board of Education meeting.

“We are doing this because it is the right thing to do,” Dr. McCartney said. “It will be an arduous task.

McCartney said the district was already working on what became a state mandate in July because of the situation in Flint, Mich., where old plumbing pipes leached high amounts of lead into the city’s drinking water supply.

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When news of that incident broke last year, McCartney said the district initially contacted the township to find out what the levels were like in the public water supply, which goes to the schools.

He said that the result was less than 15 parts per billion, the level set by the Department of Environmental Protection for being safe.

In addition, the district tested 175 outlets in all buildings except three built after 1986, when the levels of lead in plumbing pipes became regulated due to the potentially bad effects of the naturally occurring element on health.

Lead, which is on the periodic table of elements, has been used in a large number of items from piping to gasoline to paint, Dr. McCartney said.

Exposure to large amounts of lead through drinking water has been found to have serious health effects on people, especially the young and elderly.

Out of the 175 outlets tested last April, seven came back with levels higher than 15 parts per billion and were taken offline, he said.

The results led the district to decide on testing all outlets that could be used for drinking or cooking in the district.

The State Board of Education mandated districts statewide to conduct testing in July, giving districts one year to complete the survey, he said.

He also said the state has $10 million help reimburse districts for the testing which would only account for about 30 percent of the cost.

“We are not doing it because we can get reimbursed,” Dr. McCartney said. “It is the right thing to do.”

Dr. McCartney said he would report to the district once the results of the testing comes in, but that any outlet above the limit would be taken offline and a solution would be found to keep water available in that area.

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