Lead found in Glencairn Elementary water

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By Danielle Chesney
Entirely East Lansing

Linda Vail on Glencairn lead situation.

EAST LANSING – The recent discovery of lead in one Glencairn Elementary faucet has the administration taking action to correct the issue.

Three letters (1 2 3) over two weeks from Dr. Robyne Thompson, East Lansing Public Schools superintendent, summarized the situation to parents. A parent volunteer made the discovery Jan. 7 and notified administration of a sign, possibly dating back to the late 80s, above the affected faucet that stated, “flush this faucet for five minutes each day before drinking to reduce lead levels to acceptable health limits.”

Four days later, Materials Testing Consultants took samples from the faucet, as well as seven other locations within the school, to be tested. The test results were received Jan. 20, showing that all but the original sink were below Environmental Protection Agency action levels of 15 parts per billion, said Thompson in the letters.

“This lead issue has been very well handled by our administration,” said Board of Education President Nell Kuhnmuench.

The faucet and some connected piping were replaced Jan. 23, but continued to test over EPA action levels for lead, despite replacement.

“I have not seen the invoice for replacing the faucet and connected piping but anticipate it to be a few hundred dollars.  The district’s sinking fund will likely pay for the plumbing repair,” said Richard Pugh, director of finance at East Lansing Public Schools.

Until the problem can be corrected, the faucet remains restricted, as stated in Thompson’s letters.

Linda Vail, the health officer of Ingham County, said there is no need for East Lansing residents to fear for their water supply.

“The municipal water supply here in Ingham County in East Lansing is not an issue like the municipal water supply was in Flint,” said Vail. “What you have [in East Lansing]  is older buildings that have pipes, some of which were made before standards were changed, where the copper was joined together with solder that had lead in it. What’s going on is some leaching of that into pipes that’s very temporary and residual.”

If you suspect your water may be contaminated with lead, Vail recommends the use of a filter and to let the water run for a few minutes before using it for drinking or cooking. Bottles to test for water contamination are available at the Ingham County Health Department. Causes of lead contamination and poisoning vary.

“When we deal with folks that live in older homes whose children have high blood lead levels, we look for sources of lead,” said Vail. “It could be the water, it could be paint dust or it could be paint that got into the dirt outside. Most often it’s paint. Very rarely is it anything else.”

The East Lansing Public School district has now decided to test over 600 faucets and drinking fountains throughout the district. Additionally, lead exposure testing for students at Glencairn Elementary will soon be made available to parents in the upcoming weeks.

“I think if you do testing, as Glencairn did, and you find things,” said Vail, “then you have a responsibility to, with some urgency, correct it. “

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