Capital Region

School districts still working out lead fixes

Progress varies between schools, districts
This drinking fountain covered with plastic was photographed in a hallway at Schenectady High School on Tuesday.
This drinking fountain covered with plastic was photographed in a hallway at Schenectady High School on Tuesday.

Over a year after school districts tested the lead-concentration levels of school water sources, some districts are still fixing fountains or permanently removing them from use.

After dozens of water sources tested above state standards – a mirror of federal EPA limits – at schools across the region, officials shut off access to contaminated sources and offered students access to bottled water.

In the year since the results came in, districts have replaced faucets, pipes and entire drinking fountains. They have placed “non-drinking” signs above sinks in science labs and bathrooms and have removed entire fountains that were deemed not worth fixing.

“We replaced a lot of things over the summer to get clean readings,” Scotia-Glenville spokesman Bob Hanlon said Tuesday.

The district, which had over 170 water sources test above limits, removed one drinking fountain entirely and gradually repaired or shut off access to the other sources that didn’t meet targets.

On Wednesday morning, the district received word that their final two water sources registered lead levels within the state standards, kitchen sinks at Sacandaga and Glendaal elementary schools, Hanlon said.

In Schenectady schools, where just 10 elementary school water samples came in above the EPA limits, all fountains and sinks in elementary schools have been fixed, re-tested and are back in use, Superintendent Larry Spring said.

But the district is still working to replace the faucets and piping on dozens of water sources at four schools: Schenectady High School, Mont Pleasant Middle School, Steinmetz Academy and Washington Irving.

At the high school, over 80 water sources still need to be repaired before they can be used for drinking. Some of those water sources, like bathrooms sinks or in science labs, aren’t used for drinking. But they will ultimately be repaired, Spring said. At Mont Pleasant, around 20 outlets need to be repaired; there are another 20 sinks combined that still need to be repaired at Steinmetz and Washington Irving.

“We are remediating all of them,” Spring said.

Spring said the equipment to make the repairs is on site and the district plans to hire an independent contractor to finish the work in the next few weeks.

In Saratoga Springs schools, 50 water sources were still in the process of being fixed and retested, district spokeswoman Maura Manny said this week. Of those 50 sources three were drinking fountains, which were the focus of the most immediate repairs. Drinking fountains that tested above the allowed limits have been replaced with new units that have carbon filters for lead, Manny said.

Some districts aren’t replacing the faucets of sinks that tested above limits but are not considered drinking sources. Those sinks are primarily in science labs, janitors’ rooms and on the outside of school buildings and have been posted with signs that indicate they are not drinking sources. Faucets in Niskayuna and Mohonasen fall in this category, according to spokespeople from those districts.

In Niskayuna, all bathroom sinks are now in use, while six science lab faucets at Iroquois Middle School have been posted as not for drinking and a Rosendale art room faucet is in the process of being capped, district spokesman Matt Leon said.

Other districts reported that they had finished all of the work of repairing water sources. Shenedehowa schools finished the work last year.

“Nothing left to remediate,” Schalmont spokesman Bill DeVoe wrote in an email this week. “Non-drinking fixtures are signed and unused fixtures are shut off.”

While districts won’t be required to test all water sources again until 2020 – a state law required the first round of complete testing be done by October 2016 – Spring suggested Schenectady schools would consider more regular testing.

“Once we get the fixtures replaced, we will start talking about what is our scope of testing and frequency,” he said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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