Water is essential for life, however 10 to 20 percent of the lead that poisons children comes from tap water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Districts throughout the region have been testing their fixtures after legislation passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month requires them to do so.
Lead contamination found in upstate schools, such as the Ithaca School District, made it clear that lead pipes could still be contaminating the water, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in a release.
All New York state schools must test drinkable water for lead contamination. Every school building with children pre-kindergarten through grade five must have their samples collected by Friday. Schools with children in grades six through 12 must complete their samples by Oct. 31. Districts are required to develop and implement a lead remediation plan where necessary, the release stated.
According to the regulations, all districts are required to report their results to the state Department of Health. Any potable water outlet must not be used if the lead levels are detected above 15 parts per billion. Districts will implement lead remediation plans and provide occupants with an alternate water supply, the release stated.
Gloversville Enlarged School District
The Gloversville Enlarged School District will have more than 250 faucets and drinking fountains tested. Sampling was expected to be finished Sept. 17 for the elementary buildings, a district release stated. Samples for the middle and high school buildings should be completed in October. The samples will be sent to a certified laboratory for analysis and the results will be posted on the district website. Parents and guardians will be notified if any school has contaminated samples reported.
“The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority and the district will take immediate steps to remediate any sources of contamination,” superintendent Michael Vanyo said in a release.
The Gloversville Enlarged School District will take any faucet or fountain that tests positive out of service. There will be follow-up sampling and alternative sources provided.
Greater Johnstown School District
Superintendent Robert DeLilli said the testing is halfway complete for the Greater Johnstown School District.
“We are testing all the drinking fountains and all the bubblers in the classrooms,” he said.
Kitchen sinks that are used for food preparation have been tested. DeLilli said five fixtures in the district were found to have unacceptable levels. These fixtures have since been remediated.
“We did all the drinking fountains in late June,” he said.
DeLilli said the rest of the testing will take place during the next two or three weeks.
“We are in the process of getting the faucets throughout the district done before Oct. 1,” he said.
Superintendent David Halloran said there were 88 water faucets tested in the elementary school on Monday.
“Anything you stick a cup under to get a drink [is being tested],” Halloran said.
He expects the D.H. Robbins building will be done by the end of the month. Any results will be posted on the district website once they are complete. Anything contaminated will be turned off and the district will take action.
“Anything that students or staff could take water from has to come out clear – this is certainly the right thing to do,” Halloran said.
Northville Central School District
Superintendent Leslie Ford said there will be 4 a.m. lead testing for water on Monday, but she is not anticipating any problems. Northville Central School District had preliminary testing last spring when lead in water first became an issue.
“Given the type soil we have, glacial sand, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for us, but that has yet to be discovered with the results,” Ford said.
Mayfield Central School District
Superintendent Jon Peterson of the Mayfield Central School District said sample bottles used to test the water were dropped off at the school this week. Officials were taking samples of the water in the elementary school on Thursday morning.
“We are collecting those samples and sending off. If everything tests below the threshold, we will be good for five years if we are below those levels,” Peterson said.
According to Cuomo’s release, schools will be required to collect samples every five years, at a minimum. This is after the initial testing or at a time determined by the Commissioner of Health. Each school must post the results of their lead testing and any remediation plans on their website. This can be no more than six weeks after the results were received. Schools may resume use of the contaminated water outlets after the tests results come back to normal levels, the release stated.
Peterson said MCSD will take action as soon as results come in.
“It’s a brand new mandate, but it makes sense. You want to know if your water is safe or not. They have to take corrective action,” he said.
Broadalbin-Perth Central School District
Director of Operations and Safety Mike Carney said the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District has started all the testing required by the end of the month. Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade have been lead tested and submitted to the lab. Carney said the district has been testing in the Intermediate school and TLC kitchen.
He said any above level results on a drinking faucet, sink, or fountain will be remediated. All information will be posted on the district website, as required by the state. Carney said the district has always done testing because the Perth campus is a well site, but now new requirements mandate every site is tested.
“What schools are finding, especially in older school buildings, is that lead may be coming into the water fixtures, it may be coming into the piping to a particular classroom, to a particular water fountain, that’s why [Carney] has had to go through the tedious process of taking a water sample of every source where a child might be drinking water. We have been testing for lead all along, but not from each individual water source,” Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said.
Fonda-Fultonville Central School District
Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio of the Fonda-Fultonville Central School district said water outlets were tested last spring.
“Those samples came back well below the acceptable limit of 15 PPB. However, we did not test every outlet and the new regulation signed by Gov. Cuomo states that we have to test every potable outlet in our school district. Therefore, we are in the process of taking samples from all outlets and sending them out to a certified lab by [Friday’s] deadline,” Ciaccio said.
The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Sept. 15 that would help school districts test their drinking water, according to the release from Schumer’s office. The bill would establish a new $20 million federal grant program for schools that choose to test for lead beyond this school year, he said in a release.
The annual grant program would encourage schools to apply for federal funding.
“The legislation would allow the federal government do more for schools that want to test for lead contamination and ensure the water that children drink in New York state schools is safe for consumption,” according to Schumer’s release.