Tests of Drinking Water Includes 20 Older Schools

March 16, 2004
Water samples were taken today [Tuesday, March 16] at the first of 20 public school sites in Montgomery County as part of an interagency effort to identify any potential problems of lead in school drinking water.

Although there are no indications of any elevated levels of lead in the county's water, the testing is being done as a precautionary measure in response to problems identified in the drinking water elsewhere in the Washington area.

Only schools built prior to 1986 are among the county's sampling sites. The older facilities were identified because of the potential use of lead solder on plumbing fixtures and pipes. There is no indication that the sites have elevated levels of lead in the drinking water.

The Montgomery County Public Schools worked with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to identify the 20 school sites where water samples will be collected (see list below). The samples are being taken from every water faucet and water fountain so that a comprehensive analysis can be made of all sources of drinking water, consistent with guidelines of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The samples will be analyzed by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). Results of the analysis will be provided to the health department, school system, and individual schools, and released to parents and public.

The following are the 20 school sites, in the order of water sampling:

1. Maryvale Elementary School
2. Gaithersburg Elementary School
3. Wheaton High School
4. Takoma Park Elementary School
5. Flower Hill Elementary School
6. Stephen Knolls School
7. Broad Acres Elementary School
8. Harmony Hills Elementary School
9. Cabin John Middle School
10. Gaithersburg High School
11. Oak View Elementary School
12. Washington Grove Elementary School
13. Fox Chapel Elementary School
14. Rosemary Hills Elementary School
15. Garrett Park Elementary School
16. Summit Hall Elementary School
17. Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School
18. Grosvenor Center
19. South Lake Elementary School
20. Burnt Mills Elementary School

Only samples from one school each day are being collected because of the limited capacity of WSSC to conduct a larger number of individual school analyses. In addition to Montgomery County, WSSC also is analyzing water from Prince George's County, the District of Columbia, and jurisdictions in Virginia. As a result, the sampling will continue through March and April to complete the testing of the 20 school sites.

The sampling at each school site involves teams of school system personnel from the Division of School Plant Operations and the Environmental Safety Unit. The teams use small plastic bottles to collect the water from individual drinking fountains, water bubblers, and sink faucets. The collections include dozens of samples, depending on the size of the facility and the number of water sources. At Maryvale Elementary, nearly 80 samples were collected today.

Lead in school system drinking water has not been an issue in some time in Montgomery County. In the late 1980's problems were identified with water fountains in some schools that prompted the replacement of all fountains in all schools. Since then, schools have been directed to undertake a daily process to reduce the potential for elevated levels of lead by flushing all water outlets for 30 seconds each morning before students arrive, following the guidelines of the Maryland Department of the Environment and EPA. In 2000, a problem with elevated levels of lead at Seneca Valley High School required the installation of a filtering system at the school.

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