Positive news: negative test results from water quality testing at Bath schools

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By Laina Stebbins
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

BATH — As the Flint water crisis continues to harm and inconvenience the lives of residents by the thousands, Michigan residents outside of Flint are expressing concern for the quality of their own community’s water supply.

The results of recent testing done at Bath Community Schools, however, can reassure Bath parents that their children have access to safe drinking water at school.

“The DEQ stated that our water is in great shape,” said Superintendent Jake Huffman.

“Testing the water in any venue is important. People need to be sure and feel confident that the water they’re using is safe,” said Terry Gibb, Senior MSU Extension Educator in Natural Resources and Government & Public Policy. “I think, just for peace of mind, that people are going to request and even demand that water be tested to make sure that it’s safe.”

The mid-February water testing drew results from eight samples taken from “high usage areas” in three school buildings, according Huffman. The tests were performed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and tested for both lead and copper.

“Seven of the eight samples had no detection of copper or lead,” said Huffman. “The eighth had no detection of copper and a 0.001 (1 part per million) for lead. Federal guidelines are 0.015 or 15 times higher than that sample.”

In other words, a clean bill of health for the drinking water at Bath schools.

As far as what these results can tell about Bath Community Schools, Gibb said there could be a variety of factors involved. One possibility is that the area could have a “very low lead level naturally,” she said.

Alternatively, “if they’re using surface water, then they’re using all of the correct procedures to ensure the water is free of contaminants,” said Gibb. “If it is ground water, it is a municipal source … [and] they are testing and using the right procedures and activities to ensure that the water is, again, free of contaminants before use.”

Motivation to test water quality at the schools was initiated at committee meetings following the Flint crisis, when Huffman said the committee members and himself “decided to do our due diligence to ensure our water was safe.”

“I think testing the water in any venue is important. People need to be sure and feel confident that the water they’re using is safe,” said Gibb. This is especially important, she adds, “in light of what has happened in Flint and other communities that have discovered that they have some maybe slightly elevated lead levels.”

According to the DEQ: “Lead and copper enter drinking water mainly from corrosion of lead and copper containing plumbing materials. The rule establishes an action level (AL) of 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for lead and 1.3 mg/L for copper based on 90th percentile level of tap water samples.”

“We will continue to monitor our water for safety,” Huffman said.