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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Water samples tested at the Sullivan West’s elementary and high school campuses have come back positive for lead, leaving district officials pondering the source of the problem.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets the maximum concentration of lead allowable in a public water supply at 15 parts per billion. Given that lead is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, the only way to determine its presence is through specific laboratory testing.
Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Lorraine Poston reported at the December 15 Board of Education meeting that Sullivan West has been undertaking tests of every water fixture “in small batches” because of its expense and the length of time—typically three weeks—to obtain results.
Of 181 samples taken at the high school, there were 38 instances of lead above the EPA standard. The 119 samples taken at the elementary school yielded 30 failures.
Superintendent Dr. Nancy Hackett said that Sullivan West is far from alone in encountering these results.
“The districts out there are all consulting each other as to how to deal with this lead issue. The question is why. There is no pattern,” she said.
Board member Rachel Brey added, “It has been tested at the source of the intakes and that’s fine.”
Poston observed that the lead results tend to be found at water fixtures that are in more obscure locations of the schools.
Board member Lucas Arzilli said that points to internal causes such as the condition of pipes, age of fixtures, or frequency of usage.
“The problem seems to be residual, where the water is sitting. The aerators should be cleaned more often,” he suggested.
Poston said that the custodial staff will add that duty, as well as turning on faucets to move more water through the pipes, to their routine maintenance, even though the district does pay for any extra water consumption.
“We’re continuing to keep everyone up-to-date on our tests,” Dr. Hackett said, noting that the school district has posted copies of the extensive reports from EnviroTest Laboratories on its website for public review.
In other business, the board approved the appointment of retired Pine Bush Central School District Superintendent Joan Carbone as interim assistant superintendent for student services at a per diem rate of $650 per day.
Carbone succeeds Dr. Joanne Lane, who is retiring from that position effective January 2, 2017 but will offer up to 10 days of consulting services at $579 per day for the remainder of this school year.
Dr. Hackett said they were fortunate that Carbone is willing to step out of retirement temporarily, since she not only has experience in managing an entire district, but also possesses the required dual certifications in administration and special education, and is familiar with the area from having previously resided in Lake Huntington.
The board of education observed a moment of silence to sadly mark the passing of two spouses of sitting members, both of whom had been local teachers and community leaders.
Board member Kathleen Meckle’s husband of 46 years, Don, died on December 9 at the age of 69. A 1967 graduate of Delaware Valley High School, Don Meckle eventually taught special education at Delaware Valley, then Sullivan West, and had served as the Town of Delaware assessor.
Board president Mary Scheutzow’s husband of 54 years, Jim, died on December 14 at the age of 78. He taught industrial arts at Jeffersonville-Youngsville Central School for 31 years, and was a former councilman and supervisor of the Town of Delaware.