Drinking fountains at Gurney Elem. covered out of 'an abundance of caution'

Drinking fountains at Gurney Elem. covered out of 'an abundance of caution'
Gurney Elementary in Chagrin Falls. (Source: WOIO)
Gurney Elementary in Chagrin Falls. (Source: WOIO)

CHAGRIN FALLS, OH (WOIO) - The superintendent of Chagrin Falls schools held a news conference at a Chagrin Falls elementary school over lead concerns.

Superintendent Robert Hunt said there has been a contradiction between what was told to the district back in November 2015 and the posting on the EPA's website.

Hunt said he's "frustrated" and "completely blindsided" by the development after he said the district was told in November that its water had acceptable levels.

"I was obviously taken aback because it's contrary to what we've been told. We were not aware of it, the statement does not align with action we were told to take as a school district," says Hunt.

A posted message on the EPA's website read, "Children and pregnant women should use bottled water or water from a filtration system that has been certified by an independent testing organization to reduce or eliminate lead for cooking, drinking and baby formula preparation"

On Thursday, Superintendent Hunt sent a letter to parents and posted it on the school's website, along with a timeline of events related to the EPA's testing. He said that there was a discrepancy between what district officials were told and what was posted by the Ohio EPA.

"The last communication we had from the EPA was that one, we didn't have to continue testing, we have that documented and two, the water was fine moving forward," explained Hunt.  "There's no indication lead levels now are higher than they should be."

The school remains open during the testing. The water fountains have been covered as a precaution.

On Friday, the school district issued the following statement:

"The Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District has spent the day insuring fresh bottled water was easily accessible to all students and staff at Gurney Elementary School.  We continue to communicate with the Ohio EPA and believe collaboratively we will resolve this issue.  To reiterate the course of action stated by Superintendent Robert Hunt this morning, the district anticipates receiving test results on February 3rd.  In addition, out of abundance of caution, the district will be taking 20 additional samples through the building to be tested early next week.  Gurney Elementary will remain on bottled water until the test results are reviewed.  We would like to thank the Ohio EPA, Costco (for assisting in obtaining water), and the community of Chagrin Falls for their support and understanding.  We would anticipate further comment after receiving the initial test results."

Read the full letter and timeline here. 

Parents we spoke to say they are not concerned and are happy with the way the district is handling the situation.

"They've always been open about it. Everyone knows so no concerns at all," says Jeff Kay.

"No, not concerned. I usually give my daughter her own water bottle," says Alexis Marshall.

The water at Gurney comes from a well. Other schools in the district are on city water so the issue is focused at the elementary building.

Cleveland 19 has calls into the EPA for comment. We're still waiting on a call back.

This comes after Sebring schools closed for three days over the same concerns. Officials in Sebring say seven of 20 homes where the water is routinely tested showed high levels of the contaminants.

Officials are handing out free bottled water to affected customers in Sebring.

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