Because of the lead content discovered in Flint, Michigan, water providers in municipalities and other entities nationwide have been concerned about local water supplies, especially water delivered to consumers in older systems with lead pipes.
One area of major concern has been water supplies in public schools where students spend much of their waking day and satisfy their thirst using drinking fountains; and school food service departments using large volumes of water preparing student’s meals.
In June, members of the Ohio House of Representative approved HB 390 that included the Lead Plumbing Fixture Replacement Assistance Grant Program to provide $12 million in funding to Ohio’s eligible schools to reimburse the sampling and replacement of drinking fountains, water coolers, plumbing fixtures, and limited connected piping.
HB 390 allows school buildings built before 1990 to apply for reimbursement up to $15,000 for sampling of eligible fixtures and the material costs to replace those fixtures if they are identified as being over the federal action level for lead.
Older buildings are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder. Lead can be found in these older metal water taps, plumbing pipes, and brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder. When these items begin to corrode, lead can leach into the water.
Of the Big Walnut Local School District’s seven buildings, four were built before 1990 –- Big Walnut Elementary School, Harrison Street Elementary School, Big Walnut Intermediate School, and Hylen Souders Elementary.
When HB390 became effective 90 days following House approval, district administrators had qualified water quality technicians test the district’s older buildings, and then applied for, and received, Lead Plumbing Fixture Replacement Assistance Grant money to offset testing costs.
“With all that has happened across our nation with lead concentrations in drinking water, I thought this grant coming available was timely,” said Big Walnut’s assistant superintendent Mark Cooper. “Taking advantage of this opportunity, we applied and were accepted for this grant to test drinking water locations BWE, HSE, the intermediate school and Souders.”
Cooper said that all 85 drinking water locations in the four buildings were tested in November by an Ohio EPA Certified Lab.
“Results showed that all locations are safe from lead concentrations, and there are no repairs or actions needed to be done by the district,” Cooper said. “I want to thank each of our custodians at the buildings where testing took place, as they helped the technicians get to each location. Also, thanks to our building administrators for their work behind the scenes to prepare for site testing.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.