CAROLINE, N.Y. — More than 40 water samples tested high for lead at Caroline and Enfield elementary schools, according to data released by the Ithaca City School District Tuesday.
More than 156 water sources were tested this month after school officials informed parents that high lead levels were found in drinking fountains at the school in August and again in January.
The Tompkins County Health Department said actionable level for lead poisoning in water is 15 parts per billion. The public must be informed of lead levels at 10 ppb.
New test results done at the schools in January showed that at Caroline Elementary School, 31 of 91 samples tested high for lead and 11 of 91 tested high for copper levels. The highest level was at 550 ppb in a classroom sink.
At Enfield Elementary School, 11 of 65 water samples tested high for lead. The highest sample was at 260 ppb in a classroom sink.
At Enfield Elementary School, one of ten water samples was above the actionable level in January after four of five tested high in August.
At Caroline Elementary School, two of 10 samples tested positive for high lead levels in January and one of five were high in August.
Superintendent Luvelle Brown made the following statement in a letter sent to Caroline Elementary School parents:
We are communicating all sampling results to the Tompkins County Health Department. The results will be analyzed and a plan of action will be created. Also, we are working with ICSD staff, health care professionals, engineers, plumbers and other experts to further analyze the testing results. As new information becomes available, we will share it at the link above and via paper to the parents/caregivers at the school. We will also share information regarding our action plan.
Please know that we are committed identifying the causes and resolving the water issues that exist at Caroline elementary. In the interim, we are placing water cooler units throughout the building. At each water cooler there will be disposable cups for each use. If you choose to send a water bottle with your child, please be sure to label the bottle of water with your child’s name and grade to avoid confusion among the students.
If you have questions or wish to speak with someone with the ICSD, please contact Chief Administration Officer, David Brown at (607) 274-2252 or me at (607) 274-6845.
Officials have previously said the high lead levels were the result of water not being flushed for one to two minutes before samples were taken. This would have meant that test samples were done on water that had been sitting in pipes throughout the summer without being used, making the water susceptible to lead contamination from pipes.
During a forum with parents last week, ICSD Chief Administration Officer David Brown said faucets, piping and bubblers (drinking spouts) had been replaced with new parts to eliminate what was likely the source of the lead — old piping.
Brown was not in attendance, an official said, because he was attending a conference that had previously been scheduled month in advance.
At an Enfied Q&A Feb. 8, officials also said the water samples from August were not indicative of a larger problem.
In the video below, parents expressed outrage at Caroline Elementary School about the district’s lack of communication about the incident and, what they said, was the district’s inaction regarding the situation.
“When my daughter owes 25 cents to the Ithaca City School District, I get a phone call about the quarter,” said Melissa Hoffman, whose 6-year-old daughter had been drinking water from the fountain in Room 27, which tested at 120 parts per billion in August. Re-testing in January showed that the water from the drinking fountain was at 21 ppb.
This is a developing story. Please check back later for more details.