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Kiski Area schools’ drinking fountains pass lead testing

September 8, 2018

Exterior of Kiski Area East Primary School in Vandergrift on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

Three spigots -- two at Davis Field and one at North Primary School -- are the only sources of water in the Kiski Area School District failing lead testing.

Over the past year, the district conducted comprehensive testing of all water sources in the district, checking lead levels in the water. More than 200 other water sources in the district all have passed recent testing.

No drinking water fountains failed the testing.

In a report to the school board this week, Jim Perlik, district director of buildings and grounds, said initial testing of water devices such as faucets, fountains and ice machines took place in March.

Follow-up tests were done in June and July with all tests conducted by Intertek PSI, an environmental consulting company.

The buildings tested included the senior high school, the intermediate school, the North, South and East primary schools, the Upper Elementary School, a district warehouse and Davis Field.

According to Perlik, 458 water samples were taken from 229 sources in all the facilities with testing done according to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Those guidelines set a standard for water of having no more than 5 parts per billion (ppb) of lead content.

Lead is a neurotoxin that has damaging effects on the brain, particularly for children, that include developmental, learning, speech and hearing problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“EPA says for anything over 20 ppb, we should shut down the plumbing device and take corrective action,” Perlik said.

He said ten devices were found to be at or above that level when the initial tests were done in March and all were shut down until corrective action was taken.

Also, Perlik said there were 19 devices which produced samples showing 5 ppb or more when the first round of testing was done.

That number dropped to four devices in June when the first retest was done and then was further reduced with the second retest in July.

“Currently, we have three devices that we are taking action on,” Perlik said.

He said none of the drinking fountains in the buildings produced water samples at 5 ppb or more of lead content.

“We replaced some devices,” he said. “We didn’t replace any fountains. We replaced spigots.”

Perlik said the corrective actions taken, in addition to replacing devices, included cleaning strainers and adding lead reduction filters.

Superintendent Tim Scott noted that, while water testing in the schools had taken place before, it was done randomly.

“This was very different because it was everything,” Scott said.

Perlik said all of the water testing data will be shared with the municipal water authorities that serve the district.

Schools tested for radon

Lead was not the only contaminant for which testing was conducted in district buildings.

Perlik said all buildings, with the exception of Davis Field, also were tested for radon emissions.

Radon is a naturally-occurring gas that is odorless and tasteless but has been determined to be a cause of cancer, according to the EPA.

Perlik said air samples were taken and tested in March since cold weather provides the optimum basis for radon testing because doors and windows are closed.

Perlik said, of the 396 air samples taken, only one was found to exceed the EPA benchmark and it came from a spoiled sample in the Upper Elementary School gym.

He explained that the sampling devices have to be at least two feet above the floor to provide an accurate measurement. The one that gave a high reading was found on the floor and had to be discarded.

Four other sampling devices in the gym came in well below the EPA benchmark.

“Our radon levels were great,” Perlik said. “We have no corrective action to take at all.”

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