Norwalk schools turn off drinking fountains & faucets after high - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Norwalk schools turn off drinking fountains & faucets after high levels of lead

(Source: WOIO) (Source: WOIO)
NORWALK, OH (WOIO) -

Norwalk schools have turned off several water fountains and faucets after testing revealed high levels of lead. The district completed a voluntary testing sample of district water fixtures on August 15. On August 19, the results of the testing showed that of the 78 drinking fountains and faucets sampled, 10 of the samples had excessive levels of lead.

The district sent a letter home to parents, notifying them of the results. The letter stated those affected water fountain and faucets were immediately shutdown. As an added precaution, the district also shutdown all similar water fixtures.

Many of the identified drinking fountains and faucets have been replaced or will be replaced in the upcoming days. Students are also permitted to bring their own water bottles until further notice.

Due to the levels, the letter went on to say the district will now have voluntary yearly testing of its drinking water.

The letter to parents included a Frequently Asked Questions list. It's listed below. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is lead?

a. Lead is a naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Lead in soil and water usually occurs from natural sources in the ground, or when lead settles out of the air.

b. It is common for some plumbing systems to contain lead, which is colorless, tasteless, and unscented.

2. What are the health effects of lead?

a. Lead in drinking water is particularly concerning because even small amounts of lead can cause learning and behavior problems, anemia, and effects on growth and hearing. 

b. Adults are less likely to be harmed by lead in water.

3. Why is there lead in school drinking water at Norwalk City Schools?

a. In the City of Norwalk, water is supplied by the Norwalk Municipal Water System and normally contains minimal amounts of lead before it reaches Norwalk schools and homes. In 2016, water in 30 private residences supplied by the Norwalk Municipal Water System were tested for lead in the drinking water. Results indicated that Norwalk City's water is compliant with the Lead and Copper Rule.

b. However, some plumbing materials found in schools, such as pipes, fountains/fixtures, and solder have parts containing lead. In general, older parts contain more lead than newer parts. Lead is released into tap water from these materials through a process called leaching when water is in contact with these materials over time.

4. How much lead is in the drinking water at my child's school?

a. Norwalk City Schools tested for lead in drinking water at Maplehurst Elementary, League Elementary, Main Street Intermediate, Pleasant Elementary, Norwalk Middle School, and Norwalk High School. A total of 78 water fountains and sinks were tested; the amount of lead in the water varied by school and

location within each school.

b. 8% of samples taken returned samples positive for lead.

5. How were samples collected?

a. Samples were collected at schools by Pardee Environmental.

b. The number of samples taken exceeded the EPA's recommendations.

c. These procedures recommended that first-draw samples be collected at a fixture such as a sink faucet or water fountain to assess lead levels in the water.

d. Drinking water was found to be in excess of Ohio EPA guidelines.

6. What does the government say about how much lead is acceptable in water?

a. The EPA has established guidelines for lead in school drinking water of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

b. The EPA recommends that when this level is exceeded, steps should be taken to limit exposure or reduce lead in school drinking water.

7. What is the Norwalk City School District doing about this issue?

a. Testing was performed on August 15, 2016 and results were received August 19, 2016.

b. Because several samples were taken from the same water line, the assumption at this time is that the lead issue is within the fixtures, for example, sinks and drinking fountains, NOT the plumbing system or pipes.

c. Norwalk City Schools shut down 100% of affected fixtures (i.e. water fountains, sinks) on August 19, 2016.

d. Replacement parts or fixtures for all affected fixtures were ordered on August 19th and were replaced immediately as they arrived.

e. When school started on August 22, water was provided to students in coolers from unaffected fixtures.

Norwalk City School District also encourages parents with any concerns to supply their children with water bottles from home.

f. Fixtures similar in type to those affected by the issue will remain offline and will be replaced within two weeks.

g. Each source of water in the affected school buildings will be retested within two weeks. 

h. Norwalk City School District is working in collaboration with Huron County Public Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Center, and the City of Norwalk to resolve the issue.

8. What can I do about this issue?

a. Blood testing is the most useful available measure for assessing lead exposure in children. Turn-around time for filter paper testing is approximately 7 days.

b. Children aged 6 and under, as well as pregnant or nursing women should be tested for blood lead levels, as they are the groups most sensitive to the health effects of lead. Older children may be tested if parents choose to do so.

c. Local testing will be provided by Huron County Public Health during the week of August 29; dates and times are TBD. Primary care physicians will also offer blood lead testing. Specific information about testing locations, dates, and times will be available to parents as soon as details are finalized.

9. Where can I go for more information?

a. The Norwalk City School District's webpage at www.norwalktruckers.netwill be updated with information about the situation as it further develops.

b. Huron County Public Health's website at www.huroncohealth.com/lead contains information about the health effects of lead and recommendations for lead testing. If you have specific health-related questions, the health department can be reached at 419-668-1652.

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