A recent test found 85 percent of faucets in the Saugerties school district were free of all contaminants, with the remaining 15 percent below the level designated by the EPA for concern.
Superintendent Seht Turner said that there was cause for minor concern in the Hildebrandt Building, the administrative building on the Saugerties Junior/Senior High School campus. According to Turner, the testing conducted in April found a level of lead of 12 parts-per-billion (ppb). The upper limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency is 15 or 20 ppb.
“The Hildebrandt Building was built, by and large, in house, so there’s probably some fixtures or solder that needs to be remediated,” he said.
Turner said there were detectable levels of lead in a drinking fountain near room 614 on the second floor of the Junior High wing. He said those findings were “certainly worth paying attention to, and if we can take corrective actions we certainly want to.”
Turner didn’t specify the amount of lead detected in the test.
Trustee Krista Barringer said a second test on the fountain found “substantially less” lead.
Turner said he decided to test the water in the district without waiting for a directive from the state after learning of contamination in the water in Flint, Michigan (where the highest level registered at 13,000 ppb) as well as in the public drinking supply in the village of Hoosick Falls in Rensselaer County.
“When I started to hear about those issues, I just thought, ‘Wait a second, we take care of kids. We don’t want our kids to be exposed to anything,’” Turner said. “Even when I initially called for the testing of the water systems, a few people said, ‘You’re opening up Pandora’s Box,’ and I said, ‘Good, open it up. I want to know. Because if there is a problem, let’s go fix the problem.’”
Had the results shown worrisome levels of lead, Turner said he would not have waited for the next School Board meeting to act.
“If there would have been a problem identified, believe me, we would have begun remediating it even prior to bringing it to a Board meeting,” he said. “We would have had a plan in place to say, ‘Let’s go fix this.’”
Turner credited village of Saugerties Mayor Bill Murphy with helping facilitate the testing. He believes the results are good news for the community as a whole.
“I think the fact that we’re talking about four elementary schools in literally every corner of our community, and Cahill Elementary and our high school right within the village, if we’re coming up clean in all of those different places, it probably is indicating that the water within Saugerties is free of lead,” Turner said. “Again, I don’t want to be the person to make those assumptions, but based on the testing that we administered…there is nothing noteworthy.”
Turner said it was important to be proactive when it comes to the health and safety of the district’s students, up to and including ensuring access to clean drinking water.
“I do it in my own house, too,” he said. “I have filtration systems that go above and beyond what needs to be in place.”