Water Testing Accelerated in Sample Schools

March 22, 2004
The testing of drinking water in the Montgomery County Public Schools for elevated levels of lead will be accelerated from one to two schools each day, starting tomorrow [Tuesday, March 23], in order to complete the initial assessment of 20 sample schools more quickly and identify plans for testing all schools.

The acceleration follows an interagency meeting today of leaders from the school system, health department, county government, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) to assess information gathered thus far about the initial testing results. The analysis of water samples already has identified elevated levels of lead from the first three schools tested last week.

The quicker pace of testing builds on a commitment made by WSSC officials today to expand the commission’s capacity for water sample analysis. The original testing schedule had been restricted to one school a day because of projected testing limits by WSSC. The agency now plans to work its testing equipment through evenings and weekends to accommodate additional water samples from more schools.

The accelerated schedule essentially doubles the number of schools being tested to two schools each day for a total of up to eight schools each week from Montgomery County.

The acceleration follows new test results that identified elevated levels of lead in the drinking water from the first three schools being tested as part of an initial sampling effort. The sampling includes 20 schools selected by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services from information prepared by the school system for schools built prior to 1986.

The test results are from school water samples taken prior to the implementation last week of a comprehensive effort to safeguard school drinking water in Montgomery County. The safeguards, which were designed by the county health department consistent with guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency, require that all approved sources of drinking water are to be flushed for 15 minutes every four hours, beginning before children arrive for school and continuing throughout the day.

The accelerated testing of school drinking water will continue the collection of samples from all water sources in a school facility prior to the arrival of students in the morning. The samples will be taken from water sources before the system is flushed. In addition, a second sample will be taken of water sources designated for use after the first flushing has taken place to analyze the effectiveness of the flushing safeguard.

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