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Riverhead school district completes water tap testing for lead

With each of its water fountains now free of lead traces, the Riverhead school district is currently testing other taps for the toxic metal.

Ed McGuire of J.C. Broderick and Associates, the environmental firm that first conducted lead testing for the district in the spring, gave a presentation at Tuesday’s school board meeting and said his group revisited each building and took samples from all remaining untested taps. Due to a high volume of samples recently collected across the state following a new lead-testing mandate for schools, the company is still awaiting results from the laboratory, Mr. McGuire said.

“Good news is,” Mr. McGuire explained, “these are the outlets that are not typically used for drinking, so, as far as your drinking water locations, we can say all outlets currently servicing the district for drinking or cooking meet the state guidelines.”

It was announced in May that Riverhead schools had independently tested 250 water sources throughout the district and found four taps where water exceeded federal standards for lead content. Three were on sinks at the middle school — two in the kitchen and one in Room E4 — and one was on a sink in Roanoke Avenue Elementary School’s Room 103, Superintendent Nancy Carney said at the time.

Those water sources were replaced prior to the beginning of this school year, she said.

During Mr. McGuire’s presentation Tuesday, school board member Ann Cotten-DeGrasse asked if retesting was done for the four water sources where fixtures were replaced. Mr. McGuire said those areas were indeed retested and passed.

“These results indicated that, for these four locations, it was isolated to the fixture itself — not systemic through the system’s distribution system,” he said. “A very large plus is that these can be remedied simply by replacing the fixtures.”

A national discussion about water quality — specifically lead levels — arose in the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Mich. Local school districts began looking internally, testing their own water for the hazardous metal.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency states that ingesting lead can be detrimental to both children and adults, although it’s significantly more harmful to children. According to the EPA website, the standard for safe lead levels in water is less than 15 parts per billion.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in September requiring all schools to test their water sources for lead.

Districts that have performed water testing and remediation since Jan. 1, 2015, aren’t required to retest their water sources this year. However, all school districts will now be required to collect samples every five years.

Before this legislation, schools in New York State weren’t required to test drinking water for lead. Instead, testing was voluntary and administered by the EPA.

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