Three drinking fountains at Highland Elementary closed after flunking lead test

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Several drinking fountains at the Highland Elementary School were removed from service recently after tests revealed lead levels exceeding state standards.

Samples were also taken from Highland Middle School and Highland High School on Saturday, Oct. 8. Results will be reported when available.

The tests were done in accordance with a state law passed last month requiring mandatory water testing for all public schools. Highland assistant superintendent Sarah Dudley-Lemek said the results should be viewed in that context.  “Many other schools across the state have discovered old plumbing components as the source of their lead contamination,” she wrote in a statement posted on the district website. “Given the age of the building, we anticipate similar findings. A long-term remediation plan is being implemented, which includes the replacement of plumbing components and retesting of water sources. Water sources that do not meet the NYSDOH [New York State Department of Health] standards will not be used for drinking water until they can be corrected.”

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A total of 140 water outlets were tested using a first-draw method, which requires the water to sit in the pipes for at least eight hours prior to sampling. The tests were measured against state Department of Health protocol, which sets acceptable lead limits at 15 parts per billion (ppb). At Highland Elementary School, 29 of the test samples exceeded 15 ppb. The remaining 111 water sources met the safety standards.

Three of the affected outlets were drinking fountains. A hallway fountain tested at 18 ppb, a classroom fountain tested at 20 ppb, and another in a classroom tested at 24 ppb. The fountains were immediately taken out of service.

The remaining water outlets were outdoor spigots and sinks located in various areas of the building. The spigots have been turned off and the sinks are labeled with signage indicating that the water is not to be used for drinking. Lead is not absorbed through skin contact, so these locations are safe for hand washing.

Alternative drinking water will be provided in affected classroom until the situation is resolved.

Read the full report.

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