East Lansing Board president Nell Kuhnmuench on the proposal to test the water in all eight school buildings.
By Camille Douglas
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The East Lansing Board of Education will be accepting the proposal for drinking water sampling and lead analysis from Materials Testing Consultants soon, according to board president Nell Kuhnmuench.
The board was set to accept the proposal and reveal the new details regarding the testing procedures at their special meeting on March 1, but due to severe weather conditions, the meeting was canceled and has not been rescheduled.
The board tabled the proposal after a 5-2 vote in favor of the testing at their meeting Feb. 22 until details on how the water will be tested was released.
The delay in accepting the proposal was due to some committee members having concerns over whether this proposal for a future project will provide accurate results with the testing procedures. Various reports regarding how the water in Flint had not been tested properly started these concerns.
“Part of my understanding in what happened in Flint is that they went with the standards of the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) which have now been found to be problematic. I can’t tell with this proposal whether that is taken into account,” Dr. Erin Graham, Board of Education trustee, said in the meeting.
If the proposal is approved, the project will cost the district about $26,200, which will test about 613 devices, consisting of faucets, drinking fountains and toilets. All eight of the district’s school buildings will be tested.
“How [is the water] handled before it is processed? If the lead is settling on the bottom and you are taking it off of the top, that is a test score that would be problematic and we are not getting our $26,000 worth,” Board of Education trustee Karen Hoenel said. “We need to know what we are getting and paying for.”
The board has been deliberating testing the water in the schools since January when a faucet at Glencairn Elementary was tested and showed lead levels 0.037 parts per billion, which was above the 0.015 parts per billion “Action Level” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The board is working closely with Ingham County Health Department on this proposal with Materials Testing Consultants. Allan Howland, environmental project professional for Materials Testing Consultants, who proposed the company to the school district declined to be interviewed over the company’s testing processes.
“Part of my concern is I don’t want to delay the process trying to do a research project. I think some of the hysteria behind Flint is where this is coming from. At the same time, we want to make sure that the water our kids are drinking is safe,” East Lansing Public Schools superintendent Dr. Robyne Thompson said. “I encourage people to take a step back and let [Materials Testing Consultants] do their job. We want to make sure that the drinking water is safe.”
The money will fund two types of testing for each faucet, a total of about 1,226 samples. 125 milliliters of water will be sampled for each test. Both of the samples will analyze the fixture and immediate piping.
“Our school district does not have the responsibility per se for testing drinking water as a general whole because we are on a municipal water system,” Kuhnmuench said. “There has been increasing concerns because of the terrible situation in Flint. I think it is good to reassure our parents and to test for lead at our schools.”