All contaminated fixtures have been closed off for inspection and cleaning
O’FALLON – District 90 officials received a report detailing high lead test results in various fixtures within four school buildings at a special meeting held on October 3.
The testing, which was performed voluntarily by the district, found that some fixtures in Carriel Junior High School, Laverna Evans Elementary School, Delores Moye Elementary School, and Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary School tested above the cap of 20 parts per billion. According to a report issued to the Board of Education members at the meeting, the fixtures were immediately shut down and put out of service until further testing, cleaning, and retesting could take place.
“The water source the children and staff are drinking from is safe. That to me was the biggest plus,” Superintendent Carrie Hruby said. “To look at it, it looks alarming. But once you realize some of the fixtures that tested high aren’t even used at all, and that we took all of the fixtures out of service immediately, we’re trying to be very proactive.”
Jeffery Faust from Environmental Consultants gave a presentation to the Board of Education, detailing his company’s findings. Faust explained that low levels of lead are allowed for by law. The water that comes from the city to the buildings must test at less than 15 parts per billion. Once inside the school, the water coming out of the fixtures must test at less than 20 parts per billion, allowing for only a five parts per billion increase.
As part of their testing, Environmental Consultants take the approach of an abundance of caution, meaning they flag any fixture that tests at higher than 10 parts per billion as a potential future concern. Those fixtures were also taken out of service so they could be cleaned and retested.
None of the fixtures within the four buildings that tested high are used for water consumption by the public and are primarily hand washing stations. The fixtures were all referred to as low-use fixtures that aren’t generally used by anyone.
At Carriel, one kitchen sink tested out at 28.9 parts per billion, while at Moye, two kitchen sinks tested at or near the level of concern. A sink in the nurse’s office at Evans tested at 10.4, which while under the level of concern, the District wanted to exercise caution and took the fixture out of service for maintenance and cleaning.
The biggest area of concern was found to be at EK, where sinks in the north and south pod rooms tested with elevated levels. The worst was a sink in North Pod Room 5, which tested at 228 parts per billion.
“The worst one was at EK, which scored at 228. That sink is in a storage room and hasn’t really been used for three and a half years. So that may have a large part to do with it,” Hruby said.
Upon receiving the test results, the District and Environmental Consultants took the fixtures out of service and turned the water off to those areas. According to the report, the pipes leading to those classrooms in EK are lead pipes. Additionally, Environmental Consultants believes the construction during the summer may have dislodged some lead in the pipes leading to the classroom sinks. The high levels may also be a result of very infrequent use. The District has elected to take the sinks out of service indefinitely and keep the water shut off going forward.
“Because its just a connivance to have water coming into those classrooms, and because we know there are lead pipes there, we have determined there’s no good point in turning that water back on right now,” Hruby said.
Board of Education members asked Faust how there could be any lead in the fixtures at Carriel and Moye, given how new the two schools are. Faust explained there is a certain level of lead allowed for in fixtures, even though it is known to be hazardous.
“For all intents and purposes, fixtures had to be lead-free by 1986. But lead-free means that pipe or that fixture can’t have more than eight percent lead in it,” Faust said.
Faust did say the testing is done in a way to replicate a worst case scenario. The testing takes place at around 4 a.m. so that the pipes are dormant and the water is as still as possible. All drinking fountains, kitchen sinks, nurses sinks, and faucets are tested.
Going forward, the District has been cleaning and replacing fixtures, and performing retesting. Faust and his company plan on presenting final results at the Board of Education’s meeting on October 18, which will be held at Fulton Junior High School.