All but five drinking fountains are back on at Gibraltar School after high levels of lead were found in the water in October. The five that will remain off are original, white-porcelain drinking fountains in older sections of the building.
In addition to coordinating with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the school administration enlisted the help of Clean Water Solutions, a state-certified water-testing lab, to do retesting this month.
“We are very happy with Clean Water Solutions,” Superintendent Tina Van Meer said. “They responded promptly to our requests and were very thorough while conducting the testing.”
The school’s well and all 24 drinking fountains were tested. The well tested below the limit at 0.37 ug/l. Only one fountain tested above 15 ug/l, the level at which drinking the water would be unsafe. Four fountains tested between 5 and 14 ug/l, and the final 19 tested below 5 ug/l.
The five porcelain fountains testing above 5 ug/l will remain off while the school plans for their replacement. The 19 fountains that tested within safe limits are silver or gray.
The school is installing a water-refilling station with a built-in filtration system by the middle school gym to replace the porcelain fountain that’s currently there, and the water will be retested after installation. If it’s safe, Van Meer said they will consider replacing all of the porcelain fountains with those.
“Gibraltar Schools and the DNR will continue to monitor water quality and make any needed changes to keep our drinking water safe for consumption,” Van Meer wrote in a letter to families.
Previous testing showed that water in the girls’ locker room, elementary-office bathroom and high school chemistry room all had lead levels higher than the accepted level of 15 ug/l. Those levels were 16, 20 and 47 ug/l, respectively.
While the fountains were off, the school brought in Culligan water stations as temporary replacements, and some will remain as substitutes for the porcelain fountains.
Lead can cause serious health problems, especially in pregnant women and small children. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and can interfere with red blood cells that carry oxygen in the body.