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Lead Levels Flagged In Sinks At Six Unit 5 Schools

Unit 5's superintendent says the district intends to adjust or replace aerators in faucets at 26 school buildings to bring water into compliance with state lead standards.

Lead levels that surpass state guidelines have been found in six Unit 5 elementary schools.

Those schools include Fairview, Colene Hoose, Hudson, Parkside, Sugar Creek and Towanda. Parents have been informed. Superintendent Mark Daniel said lead was found in water from sinks and not drinking fountains. He said the lead traces are coming from faucets and from soldering in copper water pipes, and not the municipal water system.

Daniel said lead levels of above five parts per billion were found in what is called a first flush of water, when a tap is first opened. Those levels dropped to non-detectable once the water in the faucets had run for several minutes in what is called a flush.

"When you do flush or utilize a sink, it tends to move any type of accumulation of lead out of the system. That tells us we're getting rather high-quality water from our source, which is our (municipal) water system." Daniel said.

Daniel said Unit 5 is intends to fix the problem by replacing the aerators in faucets that contain lead.

He said school officials could not yet estimate the cost. Similar issues were recently discovered at four District 87 elementary schools.

"We'll probably look at non-detectable numbers" as a result of those changes, Daniel said. He said if lead levels continue to be detected in tests, "We would go to another phase of mitigation, which could be a filter or replacement of a sink, something of that nature. We'll just work our way through."

He said lead was not detected in drinking water fountains, where many students get their drinking water while at school.

Daniel said he expects lead levels will be found in sinks at other schools and Unit 5 buildings. School officials have arranged for tests in 26 buildings at a potential cost of as much as $70,000.

Daniel said new state standards require non-detectable lead levels in water in schools. All of the schools tested had more than five parts per billion of lead. The federal Environmental Protection Agency standards for all water sources allows 50 parts per billion.

"I don't think there is a household that doesn't have lead," Daniel said, because of the materials used in faucets and copper pipes.

"Flush your water system, run the water a while if you haven't used the water for a while and you will mitigate the problem," Daniel said.

Daniel said the six schools tested were built before January 1987 when lead was outlawed in water pipes.

"These are precautionary measures," he said.

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