Metro-East News

Belleville high schools test for lead in water; what did they find?

Lead testing expert talks about the process

Jeff Faust, principal at Environmental Consultants, LLC, talks about the lead testing process.
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Jeff Faust, principal at Environmental Consultants, LLC, talks about the lead testing process.

Belleville School District 201 completed a comprehensive analysis of its water sources that showed little to no presence of lead.

The tests — 190 in all — were mostly below the recommended lead levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Superintendent Jeff Dosier.

Dosier wasn’t expecting the district to have an issue with lead, but, he said, “we feel relieved.”

The measure, proactive in a state that doesn’t require schools to check for lead, gave him, staff, parents and students “peace of mind.”

“I think it’s always nice to know one way or another on an issue that impacts as many people as the safety of our students,” Dosier said.

The school district hired Environmental Consultants to perform the water quality checks. The company, based in Collinsville, recently took 797 water samples from the St. Louis public school system, which found that 32 of its 72 schools had at least one sample above 10 parts per billion, slightly less than the EPA standard of 15 ppb for residential drinking water.

Environmental Consultants tested Belleville East on Sept. 7 and 8. Inspectors showed up at 3 a.m. in order to get the “first draw” of water, after it sat in school pipes overnight, in order to see what the water would be in a “worst-case scenario,” according to the company.

Ninety samples from East were below the 20 parts per billion action level — the limit is slightly higher for schools.

One hand sink in the main kitchen showed 21.9 ppb, though the sink isn’t used much, and it is now being cleaned, Dosier said. The second test was from a different hand sink, in the baseball concessions area, which hadn’t been used since the spring. It was taken out of service.

Environmental Consultants tested Belleville West in late August. Out of 98 tests, one, from a sink in the Connections House, came back above the action level, at 24.2 ppb.

After taking precautionary measures, District 201 invited inspectors back on Sept. 8 to retest the three water sources above the action level. Belleville East’s came back below 20 ppb, but the sink in the Connections House — a program for students with developmental delays and disabilities — at Belleville West still had a high lead contamination, much higher than the first time, in fact: 82.9 ppb.

Inspectors came back a third time to test the sink at “first draw.” This time, it finally came in under the action level, at 12.1 ppb.

District 201 spent about $10,000 on the recent water test, Dosier said. Now, it’s putting together a “preventative maintenance plan” to improve its water supply but has not finalized the details yet. The plan will include periodic testing of suspect water sources, though not every year. The high schools will now flush its water daily, running it for 30 seconds in the morning.

Dosier recommended other schools test their water, though he said he understood that schools “have their own issues that they’re aware of.”

District 201 received positive feedback after releasing the results to staff, parents and students, Dosier said.

“People want to know what’s happening in their schools,” he said

Casey Bischel: 618-239-2655, @CaseyBischel