School water retests show 1 issue at CHS

Columbia High School

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — In a May 13 update, the South Orange-Maplewood School District reported that it received the results from an April test of 21 plumbing fixtures in the district; only one unit had an unacceptable level of lead and failed the retest.

The district retested the 21 fixtures, which had been offline during the October round of retesting since they were broken. After repairs were made, the district retested the fixtures before putting them back online.

According to the report from LEW Corp, the outside contractor hired to test the district’s water for lead, only one unit of the 21 retested failed; this unit is located in Room A334 at Columbia High School.

“This unit will remain off and covered for the rest of this school year, and SOMSD will either remediate or remove the unit over the summer,” the school district wrote in its May 13 update, adding that “since this fixture has been turned off and covered all school year, there is no danger of lead contamination to any students or staff. It will not be returned to use unless and until it passes lead testing.”

The test of the water fixture in Room A334 at CHS showed lead at 20.6 parts per billion, which is above the lead action level of 15 parts per billion established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for lead in drinking water.

According to LEW Corp, the 20 other units retested in April passed their tests and the school district says it has now put them back online. Each of the other units tested well below the lead action level, with most coming in at less than 1 part per billion. A few exceptions — though still under the lead action level — included: the hall to the left and right of Room C109 at CHS, with 7.62 ppb and 7.24 ppb, respectively; Room 102 and its sink in South Mountain Elementary School, with 1.02 ppb and 3.49 ppb, respectively; and the hall across from Room 206 at Seth Boyden, with 6.59 ppb.

Concerns regarding the district’s water fixtures began last school year after the SOMSD, in compliance with the Department of Education regulations and technical guidance developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection, identified and tested all drinking water and food-preparation outlets. On June 12, 2017, the district announced that of the 223 samples taken, nine tested above the lead action level.

The school district retested each of the nine sources and announced July 20, 2017, that only two exceeded the lead action level. Nevertheless, the school district took a “better safe than sorry” approach to the fluctuating results. As such, during the summer, the district replaced all nine of the water sources that initially tested above the action level for lead. Additionally, the district installed filtration systems on all drinking fountains and food-preparation sinks as a preventative measure.

Additionally, during the summer, the district remediated all plumbing fixtures that provide drinking water or water used in food preparation by replacing some fountains with new fountains containing built-in filters, and by installing filters on other existing fountains and food preparation sinks.

“Thank you for your partnership as we continue to work to ensure that all plumbing fixtures which can provide water for drinking or food preparation are functioning properly and safe for use,” the district wrote in its May 13 release.