Anne Arundel Co. Schools resumes testing water for lead

A school hallway is seen in this stock photo. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/stacey_newman)
WASHINGTON — Water sample testing for lead has resumed at Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The process isn’t unique to the school district. It’s required for all schools throughout the state that are served by public water.

Anne Arundel started their testing process in March of 2018, but had to take a mandated pause.

“We tested through the middle of June when our students went home for the summer, and then we picked back up in September when our students returned,” said Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County Schools’ chief communications officer.

Regulations stipulate the testing must be done while schools are in session.

“We have tested, to date, about 4,000 water outlets at 32 schools,” Mosier said, noting the district tests water outlets at anywhere from four to six schools each week. All schools should be tested by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. According to their Water Safety Testing Results Web page, they’re also collecting samples at schools served by well water, even though that’s not required by state regulations.

“A water fountain is clearly a consumable outlet. A bathroom sink is not a consumable outlet, but the law requires that you test it. Hose bibs on the outside of a building are not consumable outlets. Sinks in custodial closets — those kinds of things — also are not consumable outlets, but we are testing those closet sinks,” Mosier said.

In the first schools that were tested in the county, they sampled outdoor hose bibs, along with other indoor outlets such as kitchen sinks, classroom sink/drinking fountain combinations and more. But they’ve since ceased testing those outdoor hose bibs to speed up the water sampling throughout the district.

All schools have been divided geographically into four areas, and testing will be completed one area at a time.

But, Mosier said, the process is more involved than filling a canister with water.

“The pipes that feed the outlets have to be flushed and refilled. And then the water has to sit there for between eight and 18 hours. And then it has to be drawn before students arrive in the morning, because once the water starts flowing through the pipes again, then the integrity of your sample is compromised,” Mosier said.

The school district tested 33 schools before the 2017-2018 school year ended. Another round of testing has resumed for this school year.

According to the school district’s Water Test Results Web page, about 93 percent of tested outlets (3,969) did not show elevated lead levels. However, 273 outlets from the group of available results did show elevated lead levels. Of that number, 37 were drinking water outlets. The remainder of that number is from non-drinkable outlets, such as outdoor hose bibs and faucets in custodial closets.

“So far, the percentage of tested outlets with consumable water and elevated levels is less than one percent for us,” Mosier said.

“When we have an elevated consumable outlet, we shut that outlet off, we replace that fixture, and that outlet remains inoperable until we’ve retested, which will be near the end of this school year.”

Mosier said parental concern is understandable.

“We have said to our parents is — we want you to be concerned, right? I mean everyone would expect parents to be concerned. Again, not just in our county but across the state. But we want you to be informed. And, to that end, we have put every single result that we have, both the executive summary and the full 20 to 30 page report, on our website.”

Results of Anne Arundel County Public Schools water safety testing can be found online.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2018 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up