DeKALB – After a drinking fountain at Huntley Middle School was found to have a lead content higher than DeKalb School District 428’s recommended action level for remediation or replacement, the district is looking to replace that fountain and recommending the replacement of five others with positive test results.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended action level for lead at schools is 20 parts per billion, but the district made the decision to set a 15 parts per billion action level as a more conservative approach during its testing last year. The full results of state-mandated lead testing for district water sources were released last week and discussed during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Although there were some faucets that tested four or five times the recommended action level, Tammy Carson, director of facility operations, said the overall results were very manageable and easy to handle.
The fountain at Huntley was a side-by-side unit, but the other faucet did not test above the action level. Because of the varied test results, Carson said it’s more likely a problem with the fountain itself than a problem with the piping. The fountain has been shut off and a replacement was ordered.
Carson said a replacement sink for one that tested at more than 15 ppb at Clinton Rosette Middle School is also being ordered because it had been used for washing vegetables. A replacement sink for the health office of Brooks Elementary School also has been ordered after testing at more than 15 ppb since it could be used to fill up a cup for water to help a child swallow medication.
The five other drinking fountains being recommended for replacement tested between 5 ppb and 15 ppb and are also being recommended for replacement, which would be a fairly inexpensive investment, Carson said.
Some parents were still concerned over the high results in other faucets. One DeKalb parent with a child at Jefferson Elementary School, which had a faucet that tested at 1,480 ppb, said during public comment that she felt disheartened by the results.
On any classroom sink testing at more than 15 ppb, a sign will be placed stating “not for drinking.” Any kitchen or food service sink over 15 ppb will be retested and options for remediation will be considered, according to district documents. The district will also review preventive maintenance and inspection procedures to possibly include additional inspections and flushing of all drinking sources.
Bryan Faivre, superintendent of DeKalb’s utilities division, was present during the board meeting and said the city of DeKalb has always been in compliance for lead since testing first started in 1990.
The city’s action level is also 15 ppb, which Faivre said is not necessarily a health risk, but is a level where municipalities would have to treat the water.
This usually means adding phosphate, which provides a coating to water pipes to prevent the metal from leeching into water.
Faivre said that lead is usually a localized issue to each residence or to each faucet within the residence.