First, a concerning level of lead showed up in a test of water coming out of a single faucet in Penn Wynne Elementary School’s cafeteria.
The Lower Merion School District, one of the wealthiest and best ranked in the country, started testing its water fountains and faucets voluntarily a few weeks ago. After the first positive result, it committed to retesting all sites at all ten schools again.
A second barrage of screening by an independent environmental testing firm returned a completely different result, according to spokesperson Doug Young.
“That faucet that initially showed levels of concern was in fact well below what you would expect in the general water supply,” he said. “But, at one of the fountains of the school we did find an action level.”
That action level means Lower Merion will do even more testing.
“The game plan is we will do two more tests on each of the water delivery points in the school, and we’re going to be doing this at all of our schools as well,” said Young.
According to Environmental Protection Agency guidance, 10 percent of taps sampled from a municipal or private water system must have action levels of lead at over 15 parts per billion to trigger “additional steps to control corrosion.”
After each positive test, Penn Wynne Principal Shawn Bernatowicz sent an email to parents, addressing the possible sources of contamination and next steps.
“Please note that we confirmed that AQUA (our local water provider) regularly tests the general water supply for Penn Wynne and has reported no safety concerns,” said Bernatowicz.
He posits that the positive tests could come from “transient contaminants (like dirt, for example) at the testing site,” and that the EPA has not recommended any action to restrict using the water. The district has taken the extra precaution of providing Penn Wynne students and staff with bottled water since the first positive test of its own volition.
The total cost of retesting each water delivery point in the schools will run the District between five and seven thousand dollars, according to Young.
“We should know more next week” about whether new tests show a pattern of contamination, or support the idea that initial tests were false positives, he said.