Water Flushing Protocol Modified for Some Sources

May 6, 2004
The protocol for the flushing of all drinking water sources to eliminate potential elevated levels of lead has been modified for the Montgomery County Public Schools to allow a 60-second cold water flush every four hours for kitchen faucets and water bubblers. The original 15-minute flush every four hours will be maintained only for the electric water coolers.

The modification was approved by the county health officer after a review of the procedures implemented since March revealed. The new protocols are consistent with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It also will save time and effort by school system personnel and conserve water.

The modification differentiates between the electric water coolers, which have large holding tanks, and the other designated water sources that lack such tanks. The tanks in the electric coolers require extended flushing to clear any potential elevated levels of lead. Other designated water sources, such as water bubblers and kitchen faucets, can be thoroughly washed out with a 60-second cold water flush.

Efforts Continue to Address Water Quality Issues

In a joint letter to all parents, students, and staff today [Thursday, May 6], Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, county health officer, and Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, said the modification of the drinking water protocol was implemented as efforts continue “to identify and resolve problems associated with ensuring the safety of school drinking water.” [See full letter at link below.]

Harmony Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring has been notified that it no longer needs to implement the flushing protocols. Tests of the school’s water determined that the facility meets the county health department requirements necessary for maintaining safe drinking water. Harmony Hills Elementary School is the first school in the county to be cleared to resume normal water operations.

Over the past two months, literally thousands of samples of water from sink faucets, water bubblers, electric water coolers, and outdoor taps have been taken from more than 40 schools. Another 20 schools are currently being tested.

The effort has identified a range of findings, from no elevated levels of lead at all to levels many times beyond minimal standards in certain isolated water sources. A technical review is under way to determine the source of the elevated lead findings and recommend the best way to correct the problems.

School system and health department personnel are working closely with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to ensure the accuracy and rigor of the assessment process. An interagency task force coordinated by the Office of the County Executive is helping to oversee the effort.

Regular updates about the release of test results for individual schools will continue to be communicated to parents, students, and staff of the affected schools. In addition, updates are posted on the school system’s web site at the link below.

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