Monday, December 12, 2016

School district tackles huge drinking-water testing project

Karen Wall reports for the Brick Patch

William J. Kolibas Jr. opened a fat binder sitting on the table.

"This is all the information we have to compile," said Kolibas, director of facilities for the Brick Township (NJ) School District. "The government requires a lot of paperwork."
The paperwork is for the district's screening of its drinking water for lead. Lead contamination in schools' drinking water exploded as a concern roughly 18 months ago, when children in Flint, Michigan, were becoming sick from lead poisoning, the result of lead leaching into the water in their homes and schools.
The crisis in Flint stirred concerns across the country and led to testing of water in some of New Jersey's inner-city schools; results from 30 schools in Newark found lead levels as high as 35 times above the federal action limit of 15 parts per billion, according to a report in In May, Gov. Chris Christie announced that all of the state's 3,000 schools would be tested for lead exposure, and the state appropriated $10 million to help cover the costs.
 The 15ppb is set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the maximum allowable level, as lead in drinking water can have serious health impacts, especially for children.
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With the regulations and testing protocols in hand, Brick Township has been moving forward with testing at the district's 12 schools to address issues and fix them immediately.
"As soon as we got the regulations from the state, in August or September, we got moving," interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella said Friday morning during an interview at the district's administration building. "We wanted to get out in front of it."
The district has had testing conducted through an independent private consultant with assistance from the Brick Township MUA, which Gialanella said offered the best price.
So far, the district has tested three schools: Lake Riviera Middle School, Drum Point Elementary School, and Midstreams Elementary School. Four more — Warren Wolf, Emma Havens Young, Osbornville and Herbertsville — will be tested after winter break, probably in mid-January, with the remaining schools — Brick Township High School, Brick Memorial High School, Veterans Memorial Middle School, Veterans Memorial Elementary School and Lanes Mill Elementary School — tested in February. 
The final five schools will likely be broken down into two groups because the high schools are so much larger than the other schools, Kolibas said. The protocols also urge the testing of schools with younger children first, and then older children, as younger children are more at risk from lead because of their smaller bodies and metabolisms.
It is a complex, detailed process.
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