Lead levels at twice the allowable rate were detected in two water fountains tested earlier this month and again at the beginning of the week at Wadsworth Elementary and Bunnell Elementary. The district got the latest results today, confirming similar tests conducted earlier.
All water fountains at Wadsworth Elementary’s Building Two and Bunnell Elementary’s Building Three are off limits to drinking until further testing and the district’s determination for the cause of the elevated lead content. The lead was detected at a single water fountain at Bunnell Elementary and a single water fountain at Wadsworth Elementary. Water may still be used in the two buildings as long as it’s just for hand-washing and flushing toilets. The district is making bottled water available to students and staff.
David Freeman, the district’s facilities director, said parents and children should not be alarmed that children may have drunk from the water fountains in question. “The health department says it’s really prolonged exposure over years of time that you’d have to be exposed to it” for harmful effects to develop, Freeman said. “The fact that we did testing last year and they were all fine, and we’re doing it annually, I don’t think there’s any health hazard according to the health department.” (See a briefing on lead and health effects here.)
Palm Coast and Bunnell residents at large should also know this: Palm Coast’s water utility just completed its required periodic testing of water for copper and lead content. “I can tell you absolutely there is no lead in our water,” Palm Coast Utility Director Richard Adams said this evening. “Our test results were way below acceptable levels. So we have fully complied with the EPA and DEP standards for our drinking water.” He was referring to federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection standards.
Further, Adams said, “nobody has lead pipes in Palm Coast,” a relatively young city. Lead in water, he said, typically “comes from fixtures within their homes, so the lead solder that was used prior to the mid 80s and the brass fixtures, even though your fixtures are chrome, had a higher lead content back in the mid-80s than they do now, and water being a solvent, if it’s left in the pipe long enough, it can actually leach lead out of the brass fixture.”
Adams said he was speculating, but was guessing that more likely than not, the lead issue at the two schools was related to a leaching problem that can be fixed once the problematic fixtures are isolated and replaced. Freeman agreed.
The school district late Friday afternoon issued a brief statement, inexplicably vague and dissimulated–there was no press release, as when the district pats itself on the back–given the anxiety associated with lead-poisoned water since the scandal of Flint, Michigan’s water system, on its website. It was titled “Water Testing Results,” with just that innocuous title appearing at the bottom of the district’s home page–with a flowing water fountain. It revealed in scant detail the outcome of lead testing at the schools. It did not provide precise timelines or the testing results themselves.
“The principals at both Wadsworth and Bunnell Elementary Schools have informed their staff and families about the situation,” the statement reads after summarizing the issue, without explaining what levels were detected, and relative to what safe standards. Freeman in an interview said the levels were double the allowable limit. A district spokesman did not respond to a request for the actual test results’ documentation, saying he didn’t have access to them until Monday.
“Flagler Schools is in communication with the City of Palm Coast, which is the water provider for Wadsworth Elementary and the City of Bunnell, which provides water to Bunnell Elementary,” the district’s statement concludes. Palm Coast provides water to Wadsworth Elementary. It does not provide water to Bunnell except in emergencies. Bunnell’s city-owned utility provides Bunnell Elementary’s water.
“Our last test was three years ago. There was no lead problem,” Bunnell City Manager Alvin Jackson said this evening. Bunnell’s utility, he said, just completed its lead testing, which is required every three years, but is awaiting those results.
The district statement’s conclusion implies that it could be a water-provider issue. Adams said that could not possibly be the case–at least not at Wadsworth Elementary. The district’s statement provides no explanations as to possible reasons for the lead in the water.
Adams said the city utility’s job is to provide water that is not “aggressive,” and that does not provoke the kind of leaching from older fixtures that result in lead readings. Testing is done in privately owned homes that are randomly chosen based on a scientific sample, so all neighborhoods are tested evenly and according to an EPA protocol. The city provides homeowners the directions on when to collect water, then collects the samples and sends them to a lab. Businesses and schools are not tested: that’s the businesses’ and the schools’ responsibility.
Freeman said the testing in schools is conducted in conjunction with an Ormond Beach lab, and follows required protocols. “our instructions from the lab is that it should be the first draw of the day, that’s what we did, we picked certain locations in the building,” Freeman said. “It’s maybe double the elevated level from what it should be, and that could be that there’s a lot of explanations to it. It could be a copper fitting with a solder on it that over time has leached, it might be in just one area, and that’s what we’re going to determine next week, to isolate it.” The cordoning off of all water fountains in the given buildings is more of a matter of precaution.
The water samples were taken from fairly new water fountains, Freeman recalled. The district has been gradually replacing its water fountains to enable bottle refilling.
After inquiries from FlaglerLive, the district revised its statement on its web page, adding the following: “At Wadsworth, the sample measured .036 milligrams per liter and the Bunnell sample measured .052 milligrams per liter. The US Environmental Protection Agency warns of levels above .015 milligrams per liter.”
“People are very concerned when they hear that four-letter word, and rightfully so,” Adams said. At the same time, there was no reason to be too concerned, since the issue could be traced to typically known reasons and fixed. “We’re more than happy to help the schools to try to help figure this out.”
Considering school just started, there are two separate water providers and both Bunnell and Palm Coast pass their water quality testing regularly it leads me to think the results are from leaching due to the water being idle in the pumps/fountains for the last 3 months.
I completely trust the water from Bunnell as well as Palm Coast.
Water isn’t idle, they use Wadsworth for summer camps, extended day and etc.
Lance Carroll says
Every drinking water device in every school should be checked, as well as any water irrigating all edible school gardens. In addition, any plumbing fixtures/fittings to be installed needs to be certified free of lead. Makes sense to me….
Fill ‘er up with unleaded please.
City of Bunnell last tested for lead three years ago????? Why isn’t that being done on a regular basis? PC Utility Director Adams ” I can tell you absolutely there is no lead in the waters of Palm Coast” Isn’t Wadsworth Elementary in Palm Coast?
The federal standard is testing at three-year intervals. Palm Coast went three years as well, just completing its own testing before Bunnell.
I’m from Flint, MI. The damage to children is insane! Adults don’t have to endure the hardships that children do! Fix the water or suffer the effects to the next generation!
@ah…not all of Wadsworth is used over the summer. Most of the classes and or camps take place at Buddy Taylor.
For the schools to have the results from the second test in hand the first testing was done BEFORE the reg. School year began. So again I believe the water sat in pipes and the fountains which caused leaching of lead.
Directly from the EPA’s website:
EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time…….EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.
This is BAD news, people. I come from Baltimore where the lead paint problem has caused developmental problems for generations–literally. Children always suffer the worst effects of this–and those effects are life long and severe.
The article Clearly states the lead was found ONLY at two fountains. If it was the water it would be found in all water sources. Most probable someones used the Improper soldier on one of the lines with these two fountains, or used CHEAP hardware(piping). Pull them, and the piping and replace, then retest. simple as that. With regards to FLint, in most cases the pipes were very old and switching to a different water source with a different pH caused the lead leaching. In Palm Coast MOST plumbing was done MANY MANY years after Flint, Mi.