Schools respond to lead found in water fixtures

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com 

Local school corporations spent some time over the summer remediating water fixtures throughout their schools that tested high for lead.

The Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Department of Environmental Management offered lead testing free of charge to the schools in an effort to help schools better manage water quality. The program tested each water fixture to look for issues in the water delivery system such as corroded pipes, debris in pipes and faucets and debris in faucet aerators. The program website stressed that while results at or near the Environmental Protection Agency’s remediation level of 15 parts per billion required attention from schools, such results were not a sign of health hazards or issues with the water supply as a whole. Rather, the issues were specific to each fixture.

All the local school corporations chose to participate in the program.

“It’s just another thing to keep kids healthy and safe,” said Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang.

At local schools, officials replaced or removed any fixture that tested near or at the EPA’s remediation level of 15 parts per billion.

In Greater Jasper Schools, Ireland Elementary, Jasper High School, Fifth Street School and Tenth Street Elementary, all had to address fixtures. Southeast Dubois, Pine Ridge Elementary School, Ferdinand Elementary School and Forest Park Junior-Senior High School had fixtures to address.

Southwest Dubois had fixtures at Holland Elementary, Southridge Middle School, Southridge High School and Memorial Gym that needed attention. Northeast Dubois had fixtures at Celestine and Dubois elementaries require remediation, and North Spencer, David Turnham Educational Center, Nancy Hanks Elementary School and Lincoln Trail Elementary had fixtures to address.

Local superintendents said the fixtures that needed attention locally were rarely used and often older. For example, one of the fixtures that tested positive at Forest Park was a sink in a library closet that Superintendent Rick Allen said hadn’t been used in years. At North Spencer Schools, Superintendent Dan Scherry said most fixtures that tested positive were classroom sinks that are rarely used.

“Basically, if they weren’t used, they had traces of lead,” Scherry said.

None of the schools had regularly-used drinking fountains or cafeteria sinks test at or near the remediation level.

Each school either replaced or removed the fixtures that required remediation over the summer, then sent letters to parents of students in affected schools.

The superintendents all agreed that the program gave peace of mind about the water quality in their schools. Since the program was free to schools, it was a no-brainer to participate, they said.

“When you have the opportunity to participate in a program like this,” Scherry said, “it just makes sense.”




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