The Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District released information Nov. 20 that stated at least one room in 11 of the district's 12 buildings has elevated levels of lead in sink faucets.

Superintendent Steve Barrett notified district families and staff of the most recent findings from experts the district hired to evaluate water quality in the school buildings.

He had reported Nov. 15 that elevated levels of lead had been found in some classroom sink faucets and other school areas at Middle School East, Middle School West and High Point Elementary School.

Gandee & Associates Inc. did the testing, according to Judy Hengstebeck, the district's communications coordinator.

Barrett said every building had its water tested to ensure the water is clean and safe for students, staff and guests.

"This is a common practice in school districts, particularly those with older buildings, and it is important to us to proactively monitor the state of our facilities," he said. "While our district has not regularly tested our building water in the past, we intend to implement it as part of a consistent testing regimen going forward."

The district declined to disclose what the lead levels were or whether the levels were considered unsafe.

However, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said the majority of results were below 15 micrograms per liter and the taps that were above 15 were mostly lower-use fixtures for Middle School East, Middle School West and High Point.

James Lee, Ohio EPA media manager, said the U.S. EPA has not issued a health-based number for safe levels of lead in drinking water.

He said the Ohio EPA continues to use the "action level" of 15 micrograms per liter for corrective actions.

"Until U.S. EPA issues a health-based number, the action-level number in the federal lead and copper rule is the number available to Ohio EPA," Lee said.

He said the Ohio EPA is providing technical assistance to the school district because the agency was contacted for guidance Nov. 15.

Based on the information provided to the Ohio EPA from the schools, sampling results indicate fixtures are the likely source of lead, and the Ohio EPA agreed the focus should be on flushing and removing problematic fixtures from service, Lee said.

After speaking with water-quality experts, including those at the Ohio EPA and Franklin County Public Health, Barrett said, district leaders believe some older faucets that aren't used frequently and for long periods of time have built up corrosion, a mix of lead, brass and copper.

Barrett said the buildings and rooms affected include:

* Blacklick Elementary School, 6540 Havens Corners Road, in rooms 23, 26, 28 and 56, as well as the boiler room.

* Chapelfield Elementary School, 280 Chapelfield Road, in rooms 127, 130, 131, 132 and 137, as well as the teachers lounge, reading room and intervention room.

* Goshen Lane Elementary School, 370 Goshen Lane, in rooms 109, 111, 112, 119, 120 and the media center.

* High Point Elementary School, 700 Venetian Way, in rooms 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 39, 65 and 71.

* Jefferson Elementary School, 136 Carpenter Road, in the kitchen.

* Lincoln Elementary School, 515 Havens Corners Road, in rooms 105, 109, 111, 117, 118, 119 and 125.

* Royal Manor Elementary School, 299 Empire Drive, 104, 105, 108, 112, 113, 205, 208 and the reading room.

* Middle School East, 730 Clotts Road, in rooms 12, 15, 29 and 42.

* Middle School West, 350 N. Stygler Road, in rooms 127, 130, the clinic and the boys locker room.

* Gahanna Lincoln High School, 140 S. Hamilton Road, in rooms 140, 156, 173-C, 214 and the attendance office.

* Clark Hall, 380 Granville St., in the first-floor staff break room.

No elevated levels of lead were found at Gahanna Middle School South, 349 Shady Spring Drive.

Barrett said the water to all affected sinks has been turned off, and the district is committed to addressing this issue thoroughly and swiftly.

He said the problem isn't with the water coming into the buildings from the city of Gahanna or Columbus.

"We have sought the expertise of the Ohio EPA and the Franklin County Board of Health and are following their recommendation to take all impacted faucets out of service," he said. "These experts have also let us know that faucets that are under-utilized can build up corrosion and may have elevated levels of lead when tested."

Although simply flushing the faucets thoroughly might be enough to remove the corrosion, Barrett said, the district is going to take further measures.

He said the district would use the Thanksgiving holiday to complete the following work on each impacted faucet before it is returned to service:

* Replace fixture and water lines.

* Flush the new faucet to remove any remaining lead from the water system.

* Retest the water from each faucet that was replaced.

* Only when the test indicates the water is within normal limits will the faucet be returned to service.

Barrett said the district would provide sufficient bottled water to each building until all water systems test within normal limits.

More information about lead and water is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla