Although the Fayetteville-Manlius School District received positive results in its first phase of water testing conducted during the spring, deeming the district’s water safe for consumption based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, the district has continued to proactively test for lead at various sources throughout the district.
“The water testing in the spring was concentrated on the high traffic areas in each of our buildings, and those tests assured us that the water in those areas is safe for consumption,” F-M Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “Testing conducted this summer completed the classroom and hallway areas and included sinks in bathrooms and custodial closets. We plan to continue testing in areas where water sources are encountered by students and staff members even less, such as outdoor water spigots.”
During initial lead testing in March and April, the district voluntarily collected 107 water samples from various representative sources throughout each of its six schools, including high-use hallway drinking fountains, classrooms and cafeterias. All of the samples, which were tested by Life Science Labs, indicated the water was safe according to EPA guidelines, which state the lead “action level” for drinking water in schools is 20 parts per billion (ppb).
In the second phase of testing, Life Science Labs tested an additional 473 water samples this summer from the district’s six schools. Those tests identified 33 sinks and 1 drinking fountain/sink at or above 20 ppb, listed below.
Mott Road Elementary School – 1 sink/drinking fountain
Enders Road Elementary School – 1 sink
Eagle Hill Middle School – 10 science sinks
Wellwood Middle School – 4 science sinks
F-M High School – 16 science sinks, 1 custodial sink, 1 food service hand-washing sink
Fayetteville Elementary School – 0 samples tested at 20 ppb or above
Out of the total 580 water samples tested district wide so far, 34 samples, or 5.8 percent, indicated levels of 20 ppb or higher.
“The drinking fountain that came back with a level above the EPA guideline is restricted from use until the source of lead has been rectified,” Dr. Tice said. “Sinks with elevated levels may be continued to be used for hand washing, according to the EPA, and we placed signage restricting the water for consumption.”
The district will replace the fixtures to sinks and the drinking fountain that registered elevated levels of 20 ppb or higher in the second phase of testing. Those sinks and drinking fountains will remain off limits for drinking until they are tested again to determine if the fixture was the source of lead or if the district needs to remove some of the piping leading to the sinks and fountains, F-M’s Director of Facilities Russell McCarty said.
The third round of testing will include retesting bathroom sinks and testing outdoor water spigots and any other locations not tested in the first two phases.
Going forward, the district will test all drinking fountains and sinks for lead, a process that will take about two years to complete district wide, before starting again, Mr. McCarty said.
Although there was no legal requirement in place for school districts to test for lead in drinking water when the district began its sampling in the spring, the district wanted to take a proactive measure to ensure student and staff safety, especially in light of recent national and local news surrounding elevated lead levels in drinking water, said Michael Vespi, F-M’s assistant superintendent for business services.
On Monday, Aug. 29, the New York State Education Department and Department of Health notified school districts that the state Legislature passed a bill requiring schools to test all potable water outlets for lead contamination, remediate any contamination and to notify parents and the public of the test results.
“We are happy to be out in front of this,” Dr. Tice said. “We will continue with our plans to test throughout the district and keep the community informed of our progress and the results.”
According to the EPA, lead in drinking water is rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning. For more information about prevention and risks to lead exposure, please contact your family physician or go to the EPA’s website.