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Somers School District Finds High Lead Levels In Classroom Sinks, Fountains

Tests for lead in the water at schools in Somers found three water fountains and a number of sinks coming in above allowable levels. The fountains have been disabled and filtered as part of a remediation program and are being re-tested.
Tests for lead in the water at schools in Somers found three water fountains and a number of sinks coming in above allowable levels. The fountains have been disabled and filtered as part of a remediation program and are being re-tested. Photo Credit: Google Maps

SOMERS, N.Y. -- Two water fountains at the high school and one at the middle school have tested positive for lead above levels allowed by the state, Somers school officials said.

However, no drinking fountains at the elementary and intermediate school exceeded the limits.

The school district posted the full results of the first and second rounds of testing on its website and said that the water outlets in question have been disabled and “remediation efforts,” such as the installation of filters or the replacement of the units themselves, have been undertaken.

The results were posted on the district's website by Robert Klick, the district's supervisor of buildings & grounds, operations and maintenance.

The high school and middle school fountains will remain off limits until the district receives the results of secondary testing, said Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Crowley.

Results from 183 samples taken at the Primrose Elementary School and the Somers Intermediate School showed no lead above the allowable 15 parts per billion in the drinking water, the school district said.

However, three classroom sinks at PES did test above the limit and carbon filters have been installed to reduce lead levels.

At SIS, three classroom sinks and a custodial closet sink tested above allowable levels. Again, carbon filters were installed.

A new state law now requires all schools in New York state to test drinking water for lead contamination.

Lead is a toxic material that can cause behavioral problems and brain damage in young children, according to health officials. It is not, the district said, absorbed through the skin.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the landmark law in September and the state Department of Health issued emergency regulations requiring school districts to complete testing by Oct. 31 this year, develop remediation plans, and to report the results to parents, state health officials and local governments.

Previously, schools in New York were not required to test their drinking water for lead, or notify parents or government officials of results. Testing was voluntary and administered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Somers followed state protocol for testing, school officials said. That called for water samples to be drawn from all sinks and water fountains after the water had been standing in the pipes for at least eight hours (first draw), and again after running the water for 30 seconds (second draw).

Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from solder used to connect the pipes and when water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water, the district said. Running water for 30 seconds or so usually results in dramatically lower levels of lead, it added.

The test results for the drinking fountains at the high school found that one, on the second floor near Room 223A, was 77.3 parts per billion on the first draw and 3.0 ppb on the second. It was disabled. A filter has been installed and the district is awaiting secondary test results.

The drinking fountain in a girls’ locker room at the high school tested 59.1 ppb on the first draw, and 4.5 on the second. It also was disabled and re-tested. Results were not in as of Friday.

Filters were installed at two kitchen sinks at the high school that tested above allowable levels. Filters were also installed in a textile room sink, the basement ladies bathroom sink, the basement men’s bathroom sink and the faculty men’s room sink. The district is waiting for secondary test results on those as well.

In the Middle School, one water fountain (labeled Sp. Ed) hit 75.8 ppm on the first draw and 8.4 on the second. It was disabled and a filter was installed. Secondary test results are awaited.

The sink in the boys bathroom at the gymnasium, a locker room office sink, and the Grade 6 girls bathroom sink all tested above allowable levels. Filters were installed and the results of further tests are pending.

At the SIS, unacceptable lead levels were found in water from the fifth-grade girls’ bathroom sink, two sinks in the fifth-grade “great room,” and a sink in the custodian’s closet. They all were filtered and are all now in compliance.

At PES, water from four sinks, including one in the coach’s bathroom, were found to be over the limit. Again, the sinks were re-tested after filters were installed and the subsequent results were way under the limit.

For the complete spreadsheet on testing results, click here.

For FAQ on the lead situation, click here and scroll to the bottom.

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