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March 12, 2016

Water tests advocated for NY schools

BY LEANN HLEBICA
Staff Reporter
lhlebica@cortlandstandardnews.net

Cortland, Homer and Marathon school districts are testing water sources after the announcement of high levels of lead in water sources at two Ithaca schools.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for federal funding to provide grants for upstate New York schools to test their water sources for lead.
Homer schools are already testing water, said Superintendent of Schools Nancy Ruscio, even though parents have not called with concerns about water safety.
“We are being proactive and have begun the process of testing our water ... not all results have come back yet but the ones we have received are favorable,” Ruscio said Friday.
In February, testing water sources became a concern for the state after two schools in the Ithaca city school district came back with high levels of lead in their water sources. The issue of water quality has come to the forefront since high lead levels were found in the Flint, Michigan, public water system after the city began using the Detroit River as a water source. in 2014.
Ithaca schools Superintendent Luvelle Brown said in a letter on the district website that the district was exercising an “abundance of caution” in the wake of the discoveries that its schools have not been tested for lead in the water since 2005.
Schumer’s bill would establish a $100 million federal grant program for schools to test for lead. He said during a conference call that lead pipes were not banned until 1986 and, as a result, schools whose water is supplied by older pipes could contain lead.
“Right now there is a yawning gap in our lead-testing protocols: at the federal level we do not require or support lead testing in schools. This legislation solves that problem by providing grants to schools that want to test their water,” Schumer said Friday.
Cortland Superintendent of Schools Michael Hoose said the district is not waiting for federal funding to start testing.
“We have been testing the well at Virgil Elementary School for many years,” Hoose said Friday. He said the district contracts with a local company to test the water four times a year. So far, the well has never had high levels of lead. The rest of the district uses city water sources, Hoose said, and the city tests the water.
Marathon Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Stone said parents in her district have not called with concerns, even though the district has spent $15,000 a year testing and treating water since high levels at Appleby Elementary in 2002 forced plumbing renovations and bottled-water purchases until 2014.
The district in 2014 spent nearly $190,000 on the most extensive of several projects to eliminate potential sources of lead, including removing all lead fixtures and piping at the building, such as cold water pipes in the school’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers and some offices.
The district still annually tests the water, not only at Appleby but each district building.
“Our parents know that when something is up — we keep them informed,” Stone said.

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