Ephrata Area School District stock photo

For the second time in the past few years, Ephrata Area School District has withdrawn some water outlets from service — at least temporarily — after testing found elevated levels of lead.

A letter sent to district families Tuesday said the district had all 269 of its drinking water, food processing and ice machine outlets tested this month, and the initial sampling flagged 14 outlets across four locations.

The next steps in the process are follow-up flush sampling and post-remediation testing, the letter said. The 14 outlets have been withdrawn from service until their lead levels are found not to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level”: 15 parts per billion.

District spokeswoman Sarah McBee said in an email that most were “just above the recommended level, in the 20s or 30s,” and the district expects most, “if not all 14,” to pass the second test and not need any further remediation.

The district’s protocol is to test drinking water every two years and all other outlets every four years, McBee wrote, and it does not believe staffers or students were widely exposed to water from the flagged outlets because most of them are rarely used “and these are first draw test results.”

“We are told there are bound to be inconsistencies in first draw testing as there is no measure of how long a particular outlet has gone without being used,” she wrote. “This variable can influence testing results. It is precautionary step to taking the receptacles out of service before the second test is done.”

The letter does not say what levels were found in the 14 outlets, but does detail their locations: the nurse’s office and five classroom fountains in Akron Elementary School; a kitchen outlet at Clay Elementary School; a classroom fountain at Highland Elementary School; and two kitchen outlets, a kitchen kettle and three classroom fountains in Ephrata Middle School.

Lead in the body is especially dangerous for young children. It can cause behavior problems, affect IQ and result in hearing problems and delayed puberty. In adults it can affect the heart, kidneys and nerves.

Ephrata’s earlier test results

As LNP reported in January, Ephrata was one of four public school districts here that found lead problems after voluntarily testing their water in 2016 and 2017.

That testing showed Akron Elementary, Clay Elementary, Ephrata Middle School and Ephrata High School had 15 sinks, one drinking fountain and one kitchen sprayer with elevated levels of lead after repeated testings and repairs.

“After the 16-17 tests, all water outlets were tested to be safe for drinking,” McBee wrote. “The ‘not for consumption’ signs were placed on hand sinks and other water sources. None are drinking fountains. The signs are to indicate that those outlets would be tested less frequently. It is not an indication of water that is unsafe to drink.”

“Since our protocol is to test drinking outlets every other year,” she wrote, “they were the only receptacles tested this March.”

Superintendent Brian Troop emailed parents about the 2016-17 findings this January, after some complained that they had not been directly notified of the lead problems at their students’ school.

Troop noted in the email that the lead issue was discussed at a public board meeting in May 2017, and said the results of the new tests would be “sent home.”

The district’s latest round of testing is also voluntary, as a new state law urges — but stops short of requiring — public and charter schools to test for lead in their drinking water during the 2018-19 school year.

Cocalico’s test results

Cocalico School District had not tested its water for lead as of January, according to LNP’s reporting, but is now doing so, according to information presented at a school board meeting this week.

Kurt Eckenroad, the district’s director of buildings and grounds, said seven initial problem areas were detected in the high school kitchen and in the kitchen and instrumental music room at Reamstown Elementary.

Four of those sources passed the test after being flushed, Eckenroad said, and results on the last three are pending after all their fixtures and fittings were replaced.

Parents were notified of the findings in a March 11 letter after remediation efforts had begun, according to LNP’s reporting.

Lead in schools