Hampton Bays has joined the growing list of school districts on the South Fork that have found traces of lead in its water supplies.
District officials confirmed this week that traces of the contaminant have been detected in several faucets at the high school, though not in those that are typically used by faculty and students for drinking water. The elevated levels of lead were discovered as part of routine and state-mandated testing that now must be completed once every five years.
In a letter dated November 15 and sent to parents, Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen explains that several faucets at the high school contain levels of lead that were higher than the new state standard of 15 parts per billion, or pbb. The discovery was made following required testing completed by J.C. Broderick and Associates, an independent laboratory based in Hauppauge; earlier in-house testing completed by the district, and targeting some of those faucets typically used for drinking, did not reveal a problem, according to school officials.
No issues were detected in the district’s elementary or middle schools, Mr. Clemensen wrote in his letter.
As a result of the contamination, district officials have shut off the water to the following locations at the high school: a faucet in the men’s bathroom near the auditorium; a faucet in the men’s faculty bathroom near Room 13; exterior hose connections located outside the library, Room 7 and the Green Room; a pair of custodial slop sinks in the maintenance room near the locker rooms; and faucets in Rooms 8, 10, 11, 12 and 22.
The faucets contained levels of lead that exceeded the new state standard, though Mr. Clemensen—through the district’s public relations firm—declined to release the exact levels until the test results are finalized.
Jessica Novins, a media relations specialist for Syntax Communication Group, the Farmingville-based firm that handles public relations for Hampton Bays, wrote in an email this week that the test results are preliminary, and that the district would share the results with the public once they are finalized—though she could not offer an estimated time.
“As per the law, final disclosure and action will be complete when the results are officially received,” reads the letter penned by Mr. Clemensen. “This is expected before the end of the calendar year and includes publicly posting and submitting those to state governing agencies.”
His letter was mailed to parents last week and posted on the district’s Facebook page and website.
Mr. Clemensen also wrote that the bathroom faucets with contaminated water have been turned off. They will be replaced and retested before the faucets can be used again, he continued. The district will also be putting up signs that read “non-potable water source and not for drinking” near the affected water outlets.
“It is understood that the elevated readings of these sources are not out of the realm of expectation because the federal Safe Drinking Water Act exempts utility faucets from the standard as they are not routinely used for drinking water,” Mr. Clemensen wrote in his letter. “It has generally been left to interpretation how to treat bathroom sinks, therefore the district will label bathroom, science, art, and utility room sinks as non-potable/non-drinking water sources.”
The new law requires lead testing in public schools every five years and was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on September 6, in response to the discovery of widespread lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, in 2014. Over the summer, in anticipation of the new state law, most of the districts on the South Fork—including Hampton Bays—began testing its water as a precaution.
In September, Mr. Clemensen said preliminary testing completed at three randomly selected water outlets in all three of his schools revealed no lead contamination. The contamination at the high school was uncovered after the district hired an outside firm to test all water outlets in all three of its schools.
Similar contamination has been found in other local school districts, including East Quogue, Eastport South Manor, Remsenburg-Speonk and Quogue, and each district has turned off the supply of water to affected faucets until the issue can be addressed.