Hillcrest School Water Fountains Shut Off Following Discovery Of Elevated Lead Levels


All hallway water fountains in Hillcrest School have been shut off following findings of elevated levels of lead in their water. Photo: Franklin Township Board of Education.

Hillcrest School students will receive bottled water for the time being, in the wake of preliminary test results that show “slightly elevated” levels of lead in water from the school’s drinking fountains.

As a result, all water fountains in the building have been ordered shut off by principal Albert Fico, according to a May 2 letter from him to parents.

Preliminary test results from water in those fountains showed the water contained lead at a concentration of 24 parts per billion (ppb), said Board of Education president Ed Potosnak. He said that federal guidelines mandate that a reading of 15 ppb requires preventive action to be taken.

“The testing company did inform us that the water in the kitchen, which was also tested, is fine and is safe for consumption,” Fico said in the letter. “The issue seems to be centralized to the hallway water fountains.”

The bottled water will be distributed to students in their classrooms, according to the letter.

Fico was also expected to relay the information to Hillcrest parents through a “phone blast” in the evening of May 2.

Potosnak said all other water sources in Hillcrest School will now be tested for lead for a “comprehensive analysis.”

Potosnak said water levels in all other district schools “were fine.”

The district tested water in all of its schools for lead, in light of recent revelations of high levels of lead in Newark schools’ water systems and elsewhere across the country.

The tests, which included all water fountains and all sources of cooking water, cost about $5,000, Potosnak said.

Potosnak said the water samples were supplied to the testing company in the last week of April. He said the board decided to do the testing because “given everything we’ve been seeing with Flint, Mich. and the schools here in New Jersey, including Newark, we decided it was the responsible thing to do to ensure the students were safe, the drinking water is safe and that the water they use to prepare food is safe.”

“We took this step in an abundance of caution to make sure the students were not gong to be negatively impacted,” Potosnak said. “It’s nice to have a board that’s thinking ahead, not just reacting, waiting for the governor to tell them what to do.”

Gov. Chris Christie on May 2 announced a $10 million program through which every school district in the state would be required to test its water systems for lead and post the result publicly. The state will also adopt guidelines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will require an investigation when elevated levels of lead are found in a child’s blood.

School Superintendent John Ravally said he was “happy that we were apply to get this look accomplished and get all of the important areas in our schools tested, and although Hillcrest data revealed we do have an issue at the water fountains, we feel it will be easily remedied.”

“We’re researching the remedies now, but in the interim, we are going to provide water to the kids via bottled water in the classrooms as we work toward a more formal and permanent solution,” Ravally said.

Potosnak and Ravally said that a more comprehensive report will be available either at the end of the week or the week of May 9.

Potosnak said the next step will be to find the cause of the lead in Hillcrest School water and remediate it.

“It’s possible the water fountains have lead components in them, and they just need to be swapped out,” he said. “It’s also possible they need filters.”



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