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Lead tests at elementary school above normal levels

A letter sent to Buckingham Elementary School students last week revealed some sinks at the school tested positive for elevated levels of lead.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(March 7, 2019) Seven sinks at Buckingham Elementary School in Berlin have tested above normal levels for lead.

According to a Worcester County Board of Education letter sent to parents last Thursday, sinks in six bathrooms and in one classroom tested above the “compliance action level” for lead of 20 parts per billion.

On the low end was a sink in a math classroom, which tested at 25.2 parts per billion, while on the high end was a sink in a women’s bathroom in the “Respect Road” corridor of the school, which came back at 62 parts per billion.

The Maryland Environmental Service collected water samples from 41 water outlets at Buckingham on Jan. 17. Seven outlets were tested again on Jan. 30.

“Please be advised that these water testing results DO NOT mean that there are elevated levels of lead in the drinking water servicing Buckingham Elementary School students and staff,” the letter said.

“The results indicate that the actual water outlets (sink faucets) in the seven locations identified above are providing elevated lead results. Six of the seven outlets identified in the report are in Adult Only bathrooms. None of the tested water outlets used for food preparation nor any of the water fountain outlets throughout the school were discovered to have elevated levels of lead.”

Access to each the seven sinks were closed on Feb. 15, the letter said, and existing outlets were replaced with new ones on Feb. 19.

Additional testing occurred on Feb. 20, when one sink tested below the 20 parts per billion levels for lead and six again tested higher. The school then placed signs over those six sinks stating they were to be used for hand washing only, not for drinking.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, as of Feb. 19 the state received 35,748 lead sample results from 12 public school systems, 141 nonpublic schools, and five charter schools. Of those, 1,344 samples, or 3.8 percent, exceeded the level of 20 parts per billion of lead.

Of the 1,344 elevated samples, 702 (52.2 percent) were listed as “non-consumption outlets” and 618 (46 percent) were from drinking fountains. A determination could not be made from 24, or 1.8 percent.

Worcester County schools spokeswoman Carrie Sterrs said testing is done in 10 Worcester schools, including all elementary schools and all schools built prior to 1988, in compliance with the “Testing for Lead in Drinking Water” legislation passed in 2017.

They are: Buckingham Elementary School, Showell Elementary School, Pocomoke Elementary School, Ocean City Elementary School, Cedar Chapel Special School, Snow Hill Elementary School, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Berlin Intermediate School, Pocomoke Middle School, and Snow Hill Middle School.

“The safety of our students and staff remains our highest priority, and we want to assure our families that we will continue to be diligent in addressing any remediation requirement that may arise from this testing,” Sterrs said.

“Additionally, we are working on posting the entire testing schedule to our website, and as part of our continued efforts to be open and transparent with the community, we will be posting the school results letters as they become available as well,” she continued. “At this point we’ve only gotten results from BES.”

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