Lead found in water at three more Howard County schools

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Lead has been found in the water at three additional Howard County schools.

In the latest round of sampling at seven schools, elevated levels were detected in a kitchen sink at Clemens Crossing Elementary in Columbia, in kitchen sinks at Dunloggin Middle in Ellicott City and a concession stand and kitchen sink at Columbia’s Hammond High.

The samples exceeded the federal health-standard lead level of 20 parts per billion, according to school system data.

Samples from Glenwood Middle School in Glenwood and three Columbia schools, Atholton Elementary, Cradlerock Middle and Stevens Forest Elementary met standards.

Until repairs are made, a water faucet or fountain must be shut off if lead levels exceed 20 parts per billion, as required by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Three of the seven schools exceeded 20 parts per billion.

The water samples testing positive for lead, mostly from sink fixtures, were in the range of 26.8 to 107.6 parts per billion, according to school data. Samples were collected between Oct. 19 and Nov. 9.

By 2020, all 77 county schools will be tested for lead as required by state law. Testing must occur once every three years and be conducted when school is in session, according to the state environmental department.

Cafeteria sinks, ice machines, drinking fountains and any other outlets that dispense cooking or drinking water are to be sampled.

So far, 16 schools have been tested.

The number of samples taken is not determined by the age of the school, schools spokesman Brian Bassett said in an email.

“Elementary schools often have sinks in their classrooms while middle schools typically do not.,” Bassett said. “Sometimes elementary schools have a sink and water fountain in each classroom which will result in more samples.”

The nine schools tested between Sept. 13 and Oct.16 are Patapsco Middle School and St. John’s Lane Elementary School, in Ellicott City; Talbott Springs Elementary, Jeffers Hill Elementary, Oakland Mills Middle School and Oakland Mills High School, in Columbia; and three Clarksville schools, Pointers Run Elementary, Clarksville Elementary and Clarksville Middle.

Lead exposure can cause behavioral and physical problems, including hyperactivity, a lower IQ and slow growth in a child, according to the EPA and federal health agencies.

The school system has always sampled water fountains for lead as schools and additions are built or if a school undergoes a renovation.

During the testing process, all eight county schools with well water will also be tested.

All elementary and any middle or high schools built before 1988 will be tested by the end of June, according to the school system.

Testing will begin for middle schools constructed during or after 1988 and all remaining schools will be tested during the 2019-2020 school year.

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jnocera@baltsun.com

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