On the heels of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools announcing elevated levels of lead had been found in some classroom sink faucets at three schools late last week, Gahanna officials are seeking to assure residents the city's water-distribution system is compliant with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements for lead and copper.
The district notified district families and staff members Nov. 15 that elevated levels of lead were evident in water from classroom sink faucets and other school areas at Middle School East, Middle School West and High Point Elementary School.
Mayor Tom Kneeland said the city has received a lot of questions related to the discovery.
“The city has been queried about the water quality delivered to the schools,” Kneeland said. “We, along with all other suburbs, test our water on a regular basis and this situation is indicative of contamination from internal plumbing and not the delivery system.
“This isn’t a city delivery-system problem."
Gahanna service and engineering director Rob Priestas said the city's water distribution system is “absolutely compliant” with OEPA requirements, for which testing is performed every three years.
“The latest round of testing was completed earlier this year,” he said. “This year’s sampling showed that our water distribution system is well within compliance with OEPA regulations (for lead and copper).”
In its announcement, the district declined to disclose what the lead levels were or whether the levels were considered unsafe. However, the Ohio EPA said the majority of results were below 15 micrograms per liter and the taps that were above 15 were mostly lower-use fixtures.
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.
Superintendent Steve Barrett said the district contacted the Ohio EPA and is following its recommendation to take all affected faucets out of service and flush water systems to remove any remaining lead from the pipes.
Priestas said lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with private service lines and home plumbing.
The city’s water division is responsible for providing high-quality drinking water, but it cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components, he said.
“When water has been sitting for several hours, residents can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing their tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking,” Priestas said. “If residents are concerned about lead in their water, they may wish to have their water tested by a private contractor.”