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Indian River School District sites test positive for lead contamination

Julia Botero
The five sites testing above 15ppb at Indian River Schools had faucets replaced.

Earlier this fall, the Indian River Central School District in Jefferson County identified lead contamination in five sites around the district. Last month, state law went into effect requiring all schools test their drinking water for the toxic material. Lead is extremely harmful to young children, often leading to lower IQ’s, behavioral problems and even brain damage.

Fred Hauk, Health and Safety head with BOCES says he and his staff started testing schools in their region this summer when students were gone. They was checking to see if water pouring out of kitchen and bathroom faucets and water fountains had levels of lead over 15 parts per billion.

According to Hauk, after the first tests, about 4 percent of the schools had drinking water with those lead levels or more.

“I guess the best way I could explain it to you as to what 15 parts per billion is, if you were to fill an eyedropper with red food dye and drop those 15 drops into a swimming pool, that’s what 15 parts per billion is. “

James Koch, superintendent of Indian River Central School District, says the sources of contamination at the five sites were the faucets themselves -  not the school’s main water sources.  

“We immediately took all five out of service. One is permanently out of service, three have the faucets replaced and will be retested and the forth one we’re waiting for parts to come in.”

Koch says Indian River and other school districts are now turning their attention to sites around schools that aren’t obviously open to students and staff.

“Like janitor sop sinks need to be tested. You can fill a Gatorade bottle up in there so we need to start looking there,” said Koch.

All school districts in the state are expected to complete their lead testing by October 31.