Williamston school district superintendent Narda Murphy said there is no longer any need to be concerned over the quality of water in Williamston schools.
This spring, elevated levels of lead were found in a teacher’s lounge faucet in Williamston High School, a restroom drinking fountain in Explorer Elementary, a kitchen sink and seventh grade hall drinking fountain in Williamston Middle School and a maintenance garage bathroom sink. Water tested by Testing Engineers & Consultants on Feb. 13 contained lead levels above the threshold of 0.015 mg/L which is the Environmental Protection Agency’s level for action.
The lead was from the faucets themselves, including the soldering and the welds the the infrastructure within the faucet. Replacing the faucets and various parts served to reduce the lead levels.
Scott Chandler, manager of the Industrial Hygiene Services Department for Testing Engineers & Consultants Inc., which tested the schools’ water says that the schools have now been given the “all clear.”
“We replaced a couple of spigots in the boiler room,” Murphy said. “We retested on some of the spots that were close to being higher than the normal limits just to be sure and everything tested out fine now.”
Just a fraction of schools nationwide is required to check for lead because most institutions receive their water from municipal systems that test at other locations. Williamston School Board member Joel Gerring said the reason Williamston schools decided to do some testing is because of the recent widespread concern due to the Flint water crisis.
“Water testing for schools who do not have a stand-alone water source such as a well system are not required,” Murphy stated. “Our water source is from the city of Williamston and they test according to timelines established by the state of Michigan. Because of the awareness brought about by the tragic circumstances in Flint, all schools are on a heightened alert for the potential of contaminants.”
Process of informing
Some parents with kids in the Williamston school system said they were not informed about the elevated levels of lead in the water. Williamston Middle School Principal Kelly Campbell said the responsibility to inform parents and students fell to Superintendent Murphy.
Deanna Stampfly, mother of 3 Williamston High School students, said she was completely unaware that lead was found in the water.
“Apparently they addressed it at a school board meeting but if any direct communication was made to parents, I don’t remember it,” Stampfly said. “It seems like something that would warrant a letter to parents or at least an email.”
Murphy said she always tries to be as transparent as possible when revealing information to the parents of the youth who attend Williamston schools.
“I posted a letter on our website revealing the details of the situation,” Murphy said. “I didn’t hear a single complaint from any of the parents.”
Williamston water quality
Stampfly’s daughter, Abigail, says for as long as she can remember the water quality in Williamston has never been great.
“My parents have always discouraged me and siblings from drinking the water at school,” the Williamston High School senior said. “It’s always been gross.”
Mindy Woolman, mother of 3 Williamston Middle School students said that although her kids choose not to drink the water at the school, despite growing controversy over the well system in Williamston, she does not believe there is anything suspicious going on involving the water.
“I do trust the school,” Woolman said. “They have their kids and even grandkids that are attending Williamston so they have a personal stake to have healthy drinking water.”
A statewide issue
The high concentration of lead in Flint’s water supply has threatened the health of its residents and brought widespread attention to the city. The situation in Flint is severe but not isolated. Several water supplies across Michigan have met or exceeded the federal limit for lead and copper.
A recent report from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tracks the lead levels in water supplies in all municipalities in Michigan, as well as private residential facilities. The report shows that six private water supplies in Michigan and two municipalities, not including Flint, meet or exceed the federal limit on lead and copper in water tested.
The World Health Organization says that no level of lead is safe to drink and the water quality in various areas of Michigan is a cause for concern.
Across Michigan, thousands of children are dealing with the effects of lead poisoning. Although much of the focus has been on lead in Flint’s water supply, in many parts of the state the percentage of children with elevated levels of lead exceed rates in Flint. Click on the map here to zoom in to see how many children tested positive in your ZIP code.