Tests show elevated lead levels at 2 Bethlehem elementary schools

BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Test results for lead came back for the Bethlehem Central School district on Friday.

Results found 11 affected water sources at two elementary schools with the majority of those outlets found at Slingerlands Elementary School.

A state mandate has public schools testing their old piping for lead, red flagging levels above 15 ppb.

It’s no surprise the two oldest buildings in Bethlehem Central School district tested positive. Officials found eight sinks ranging from 18 to 40 ppb at Slingerlands and three sources at Elsmere, including a water fountain with lead levels at 22 ppb.

Dr. James Saperstone says we really don’t know what level, if any, is considered safe.

“Lead, even in very small amounts, can affect the growing brain or a child, Dr. Saperstone said. “It can affect their development it can affect their ability to think clearly, to learn.”

In a statement, Superintendent Jody Monroe released this statement:

“To date, we have received results from two of our oldest buildings and a small percentage of those tested have shown lead levels above the state’s action level of 15 parts per billion. Those outlets were immediately taken out of service and will be remediated. There are readily available alternate sources of water for the outlets that are not currently in service.

We take the safety of our students and staff very seriously and are complying fully with the new testing regulations. All sampling of elementary schools was completed last month and we are sharing results with parents as soon as they are received from the lab by the district….In all, more than 900 water outlets are being tested districtwide.”

Even a section of lead piping can’t be detected until it shows up in the water.

To give you an idea of what is happening, a piece of old lead piping, like any plumbing, will corrode over time. Pieces chip off the plumbing, contaminating the water with lead, but replacing all old lead pipes is timely and expensive.

“We’d have to retrofit an entire school,” Dr. Saperstone said. “The younger the child, the more they are at risk. We want to get to the point where there is no lead, but we have to have some sort of background noise that we tolerate because sometimes it can be extremely expensive to retrofit an entire school.”

Sampling will take place at the high school and middle this month and will available sometime in November.

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