ITHACA, NY – What started as a handful of worrisome lead test results in two rural schools has ballooned into a major area of concern throughout Tompkins County and New York State.

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Following the revelation that a series of tests in 2005 showed high levels of lead in schools through the Ithaca City School District, several other districts have started taking measures to ensure their water is safe to drink.

Binghampton tested their water at the end of February, showing more than 30 positive results. This week, Trumansburg also went ahead with testing, revealing four trouble spots in the school. Both districts have put together action plans to remediate the issue.

While lead across multiple ICSD schools doesn’t mean that lead is a problem in other Tompkins’ schools, it has raised awareness of the fact that older lead-bearing plumbing can leach lead into the water.

Dryden School District

Dryden School District Superintendent Sandy Sherwood said that her district had contacted the Tompkins Department of Health after learning about the results from nearby districts.

She said that Dryden does plan to have water tested in its main schools in Dryden. Tests were performed in the outlying schools — Freeville and Cassavant Elementary schools, which use well water — in August, and came back with no positives for lead contamination.

Sherwood said that the school is currently working on a capital project and they’ll want to ensure that the test results are in before moving forward, as the capital funding will be needed if the schools require major plumbing work.

Newfield School District

Newfield School District Superintendent Cheryl Thomas had just addressed this issue during her report to the Newfield Board of Education on Mar. 3. The report indicates that most of Newfield’s plumbing was made after the 1986 lead ban. The last test, performed 1990, revealed no positives for lead. Newfield schools draw their water from Newfield’s municipal water system.

However, Newfield does plan to re-test its water, and is working with the Tompkins County Department of Health as it continues to formulate its plan.

The full report is below:

There have been some inquiries into water testing in our district. None of the Newfield schools have lead pipes and most of the plumbing is post-1987. Our water was last tested by BOCES on July 30, 1990 and no issues were found with lead. BOCES met with the Tompkins County Health Department on Friday morning and were told that the Health Department wants to move forward in a measured manner by reviewing and setting up procedures to be used for testing.

They do not recommend sampling and testing until they have produced some guidance to follow tied to the EPA’s testing recommendations. The reason for this is that they want to be absolutely certain they are receiving reliable samples that produce valid actionable results. The Health Department “has no reason to suspect that there is any lead contamination” in schools using municipal water.

We will have BOCES re-test our water as soon as they get the “go ahead” from the Tompkins County Department of Health. The Department of  Health has asked that anyone with concerns contact them for information.

Groton and Lansing School Districts did not return calls for comment.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.