UPDATE: At 6:09 p.m. on Thursday, the City of Ithaca released a news release, reiterating the information previously released about the discolored water and adding the following in regards to the water at Cass and Stewart Parks and several city buildings:

[su_box title=”Update from the City of Ithaca” box_color=”#9b0c0b” title_color=”#ffffff”]

Separate from the recent color and odor issues, and in response to concerns raised earlier this year about lead in the water supplies at local area schools, the City of Ithaca sampled plumbing fixtures in all City owned facilities. Results of testing for both Stewart and Cass Parks were reviewed this week.

The City learned that samples from two drinking fountains and an ice machine at Cass Park and three drinking fountains at Stewart Park contained lead concentrations above the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

There were also high lead levels detected in samples from a number of hose bibs and bathroom lavatories. The City has shared the results with the Health Department and will be retesting these fixtures under more “typical” conditions.

It is likely that the water sampled from the parks had sat for a long period of time because the samples were taken in May, at the end of a period of low water usage.

Until resampling has occurred and the results show normal levels and/or the old piping and fixtures are replaced, the City has removed the fountains and ice machine from service and will be directing people to alternative drinking water sources. The sinks and hose bibs will be labeled with signs indicating that the water should not be used for drinking.

After earlier test results indicated elevated levels of lead at plumbing fixtures in several other City facilities, the Water and Sewer Division collected water samples at the water treatment plant and at water storage tanks throughout the water distribution system.Those samples did not show any evidence of lead.

This indicates that the lead found in the water samples from Cass and Stewart Parks and other City facilities is attributable to older plumbing fixtures or piping installed when lead-containing solder was allowed for use in joining pipes.

In the initial round of testing, there were elevated levels of lead detected in a bathroom sink in City Hall, in exterior hose bibs at GIAC and the Youth Bureau, and at several locations at the Ithaca Police Department.

The faucet in City Hall was replaced, and the hose bibs at GIAC and the Youth Bureau are neither accessible to the public nor used for anything related to youth programs. Fixtures at the Ithaca Police Department, which are not accessible to the general public, will be taken out of service or appropriately labeled until the problems can be resolved.

Every three years the City is required to perform testing for lead and copper in the water system by taking samples at a number of houses throughout the city. The most recent round of testing was performed in 2015 (http://www.cityofithaca.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/1057) and the next round of testing will be required in 2018.

However, because of the new water treatment process and to be extra cautious, the City is going to repeat the testing for lead and copper this year. Those tests will be taken over the next few months and the results will be made public as soon as they are available.

For more information on these issues, please contact Chief of Staff Dan Cogan at dcogan@cityofithaca.org.[/su_box]

Earlier —

ITHACA, NY – On Thursday, the latest in a slew of issues with drinking water in Ithaca came to light.

This morning, Ithaca Youth Bureau Recreation Program Director Mike Blakely-Armitage sent a message to parents of children enrolled in IYB day camp programs. Ithaca resident Michelle Courtney Berry reposted it to her Facebook page:

[su_box title=”Blakely-Armitage’s email to parents” box_color=”#9b0c0b” title_color=”#ffffff”]Recently, Youth Bureau staff were made aware of unsatisfactory water test results at Cass Park and Stewart Park. The areas of concern are NOT the primary sources of water we use for either day camp.

However, to help alleviate concerns, we will be providing additional water coolers at the Cass Park Rink and at the Stewart Park Large Pavilion. We will also provide water bottles for campers that forget to bring them.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or your child’s camp director. Thank you.[/su_box]

This discovery came just days after the City of Ithaca began addressing concerns about discolored brown or yellow water throughout the city. The city’s Department of Public Works has indicated that the discoloration is likely due to rust, but the water is safe to drink.

Months earlier, the Ithaca City School District discovered a significant lead contamination in the drinking water in several of their schools.


(Featured photo courtesy of Eric Norris on Flickr.)

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.