By Kathryn G. Menu
Sag Harbor School District administrators shut off six faucets in the elementary school Wednesday afternoon after water tests showed lead concentrations greater than what is allowed under state standards.
Superintendent Katy Graves noted the six faucets in question were not used by children. “All drinking fountains used by children passed,” she said.
A full report, and a plan for remediation by JC Broderick, the environmental and construction consulting firm that did the tests, is expected on Thursday, October 20, she added. Ms. Graves said 217 water sources in Pierson Middle High School were also tested on September 29 and 30, and those results should be delivered to the district by the first week of November.
In New York State, lead levels of up to 15 parts per billion are acceptable in drinking water. According to the initial findings by JC Broderick, the highest levels in the elementary school were found in the third floor teacher’s lounge kitchen sink, where a “first draw,” defined as water that has sat in the faucet body for eight hours or longer, showed 140 parts per billion. A flush test, which involves sampling the water coming through the pipes, on that same sink showed a reduced level of 33.5 parts per billion, which is still above state standards.
That faucet was the only location where lead levels exceeded state standards on both tests, said Ms. Graves. That means in the other five locations tested, replacing sink fixtures will likely be recommended. In the teacher’s lounge, she said she expects the fixtures, sink, and piping will most likely have to be replaced, but will not have a final answer until she receives JC Broderick’s report.
Two slop sinks, a ground-floor bathroom faucet, the principal’s office kitchen faucet, and a second-floor bathroom faucet showed lead levels between 39.8 and 16.7 parts per billion on the “draw” water tests, but below state standards at 12.7 to 2.8 parts per billion on the “flush” tests, according to JC Broderick’s report. A total of 68 water sources in the building were tested for lead, according to Ms. Graves, with 62 meeting state safety standards.
“I asked JC Broderick to give us a grade, and they said we would have gotten an ‘A’,” she said. “Every place a child has access to drinking water or regularly washes their hands, we passed.”
Lead cannot be absorbed into the body through the skin.
Ms. Graves said once the five faucets are replaced, and recommended remedial work is completed in the third floor teacher’s lounge, those locations will all be retested for lead by JC Broderick.
Sag Harbor is not the only district announcing water quality results this month. In early September, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation requiring school districts test drinking water for lead contamination. An October 31 deadline was set for districts to comply with the law, which also requires districts to share the water testing results publicly. Previously, schools in New York were not required to test potable water for lead, or notify parents or government officials of results.
The Bridgehampton School announced this week it has replaced the faucets in four sinks in its science laboratory, and removed a drinking fountain from the boys locker room, after water testing completed this summer showed lead levels beyond state standards. The “first draw” results in those locations showed lead levels between 24 parts per billion and 97 parts per billion.
The results, and report by environmental consultants Enviroscience Consultants Inc., were published on the district’s website last week, initially with a statement in parentheses that read “District Results Are Within Normal Limits,” despite the fact that there were some readings above state standards. That statement was removed from the district website by late Tuesday night.
The Springs School District announced this week three areas in its school showed elevated lead levels and it placed “No Drinking” signs in English and Spanish on the middle school science laboratory sinks, as well as the art room sink, which has been turned off until its faucet is replaced. An access door to a custodial closet where a sink showed higher levels of lead has also been locked to protect students.
The Amagansett School shut down a water fountain last week after it, along with six other sinks, showed elevated levels of lead. It placed “hand-washing only” signs on those fixtures.
Last month, the Southampton School District said it had discovered five of 47 locations in its intermediate school showed elevated levels of lead, with 15 of 87 samples from water sources in the high school also showing lead concentrations above state standards. After the fixtures were changed in those buildings, lead testing came back below the state’s threshold.