Water Safeguards Implemented in All Schools Today

March 19, 2004
Precautionary measures – including the extended flushing of water
fountains, shutdowns of other water sources, and warning signs in
schools – have been taken overnight to address the potential of elevated
levels of lead in the drinking water of the Montgomery County Public
Schools, said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, and Dr.
Ulder Tillman, county health officer at a press conference today [Friday,
March 19].

The precautionary measures were in place before school began this
morning in order to ensure safe drinking water and a “healthy school
environment through carefully implemented safeguards,” said Weast and
Tillman in a joint letter being distributed to all parents, students, and
staff today [see links to letter below, including language translations].
The safeguards will be maintained as water testing continues,
and facility corrections are implemented.

The actions follow reports received yesterday that the Washington
Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) has completed an initial analysis
that identified elevated levels of lead in water samples from Maryvale
Elementary School in Rockville. Of the 76 samples taken at the school
this week, elevated levels of lead were found in nine samples. Similar
results were found in the first school tested in Prince George’s County.

“These findings suggest that elevated levels of lead may be found in
other schools,” Weast and Tillman said. “We believe that it is both
prudent and responsible to take certain precautionary actions in all
schools to safeguard the water sources for students and staff.”

Safeguards Implemented Before School Opened

Last night, steps were taken to implement the safeguards early this
morning at all schools before children arrived for classes [see link to
superintendent's directive below].

Essentially, the safeguards require that the school’s primary drinking
water sources will be flushed for 15 minutes every four hours, beginning
before the opening of school each morning and continuing throughout
the day and into the evening. This procedure ensures that any lead
residue is flushed out of the plumbing before water is used for drinking,
consistent with protocols recommended by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA).

Hallway water fountains, locker room fountains, and kitchen faucets will
be maintained as the primary sources of water. Classroom spigots have
been taped over and prevented from use, except in certain limited
circumstances required by special conditions of the students and at the
discretion of the principal. Signs have been placed throughout the
schools reminding students and staff about the flushing requirements
and identifying water sources that should not be used.

“These safeguards present a challenge for our school district and
certainly an inconvenience for our students and staff,” Weast and Tillman
said. “Nonetheless, we believe very strongly that taking quick,
precautionary measures is important and responsive to the needs of the
school system.

Until corrective actions can be taken to address the source of the
elevated levels of lead, we will continue using these safeguards in all of
the public schools of Montgomery County.”

Parent Letters and Safety Guidelines Provided

Parent Letter in English.pdf

Parent Letter in Spanish.pdf

Parent Letter in Chinese.pdf

Parent Letter in Korean.pdf

Parent Letter in Vietnamese.pdf

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