Area schools conduct lead tests on water
FINGER LAKES--State legislators highlighted the signing of a new law requiring school districts to test for lead in their drinking water systems Sept. 6. Acknowledged as a "first-in-the-nation law," the law was sponsored by State Senator Tom O'Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell), after concerns over lead in drinking sources at schools were raised in their respective legislative districts and across the state. Earlier this year, school districts in Ithaca, Trumansburg and Binghamton had to shut down drinking water supplies as a result of tests which revealed elevated levels of lead above state and EPA standards for contamination.
However, area school districts have been ahead of the law, with each of them recently conducting their own voluntary lead tests on their water systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), steps must be taken to correct the problem and citizens must be notified when the lead levels reach 15 parts per billion (ppb). The law requires districts to sample all potable water sources in pre-K through grade five buildings by Sept. 30, and grade six through 12 buildings by Oct. 31.
The Watkins Glen Central School District had their last lead test conducted late last spring. Superintendent Tom Phillips said it cost the district $1,500. Facilities Director Gerald Harriger said they will be doing some additional testing next week at some sites in the elementary school. While many of the district's tested areas were also below one ppb, there was one place tested that failed the New York State drinking water standards, scoring 39.9 ppb in the high school room 454 sink.
However, Harriger said this was due to the screen and aerator being left on when it was tested, which are usually removed during testing. He noted the sink was retested and was found to be fine, while the screen and aerator were cleaned. If a device does come in high, Harriger said a notification is sent out, signage is placed at the location, and it is eventually replaced within 10 days.
Odessa-Montour Superintendent Chris Wood said the district had their water voluntarily tested this June and July. He said because they volunteered, they will be able to apply for a waiver so that they do not need to test again for five years. Odessa-Montour did not provide their test results by press time.
Dundee Superintendent Kelly Houck said Dundee Central School had all potable water sites tested in August 2016, along with a re-test of two locations completed Sept. 2. She mentioned it usually takes between three and four weeks to get results back, but added now that there is a large testing demand, it will likely take much longer. Houck said as soon as the results are received, they will be made available to the public. Dundee's cost for the testing was $1,900.
At the Penn Yan Central School District, their last lead test was conducted in June 2016, revealing a lead level of less than one ppb at a majority of the locations. While it ranged as high as 13 ppb at one of the kitchen hand sinks, the rest remained at or below five ppb. Superintendent Howard Dennis said the testing cost the district $6,750, saying costs can vary depending on the number of sampling locations and who conducts the testing.
The Hammondsport Central School District conducted a lead test in all of their water fountains during the last school year. Maintenance Supervisor Don Gardiner said there were three who came back as being slightly higher than the drinking standard. Gardiner said each of the fountains were shut down, with two of them being replaced so far. He said they are still in the process of changing out the third.
The maintenance supervisor said the district is now in the process of testing the final remaining fixtures in the district within the next week or so. He said this includes 80 remaining fixtures.