May 27, 2017

Pennsylvania School Closed After E. coli Found in Water

A school in Pennsylvania has been closed and the students relocated after E. coli was found in the facility’s water. Summit Elementary in Butler County was closed yesterday after an emergency school board meeting. Classes will be relocated to Broad Street Elementary School next week.

Water in Sink

The problem was identified when testing was performed on the water because school officials knew the water was contaminated with lead. A public notice about the issue states, “due to the lead and copper contamination of the water at the Summit Elementary School the Butler Area School District undercook comprehensive sampling of the well and treated water at the school.”

A sample that was collected from the raw untreated well water indicated that it contained E. coli bacteria. The well water is treated at the school, and samples taken from the school building showed that the water in the school did not contain E. coli bacteria. But the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PED) requires that consumers of the treated water be notified when pathogenic bacteria are found in the untreated water samples.

The Tier 1 public notice issued by PED states that the treated water is only being used for sanitation purposes. The water at the school is treated with chlorine before it reaches sinks and drinking fountains. Officials believe that the problem will be resolved by the end of March 2017.

After high lead levels were found in the water, students used portable sinks that were piped with water from the municipal system and jugs of water for hand-washing. According to news reports, district leaders said they knew about the concerns about lead in the water but only told parents earlier in January, which means that students in Kindergarten through fourth grade drank the lead-tainted water for about four months.

E. coli can cause serious illness, with symptoms including diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, severe abdominal cramps, and a mild fever. Lead is a toxic heavy metal and can cause delayed development and damage to the central nervous system along with learning disabilities. There is no safe level for lead in drinking water.

 

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