Northeastern water now safe after lead contamination

Northeastern Local School District Superintendent John Kronour inspects a new piece of equipment that was installed at Northeastern High School to prevent lead from leaching into the water system. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Northeastern Local School District Superintendent John Kronour inspects a new piece of equipment that was installed at Northeastern High School to prevent lead from leaching into the water system. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

Northeastern Local Schools spent more than $11,000 for testing and treating of water to deal with high lead levels at one of its high schools.

Water from a Northeastern High School drinking fountain tested with high lead levels in July, a notice posted to the school’s website says. The fountain was tested at 146 micrograms of lead per liter of water and the action level is 15 micrograms of lead per liter of water.

RELATED: Local schools urged to test water for lead

“A drinking fountain at the front of the school that tested positive for elevated results was removed from service immediately,” the notice says.

Northeastern is the second largest district in Clark County with about 3,300 students. Northeastern High School has an 338 students enrolled currently, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Students exposed to lead can suffer from cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems (in both men and women), according to the EPA.

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Along with shutting down the drinking fountain, the school handed out more than $3,000 worth of bottled water to students. The students were allowed to take the bottles to classes and carry them with them throughout the day.

To fix the problem with the water fountain, the school replaced the fixture and an added a corrosion inhibitor to combat future issues, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Dina Pierce said.

“A corrosion inhibitor is added during the drinking water treatment process to reduce corrosion in pipes and fixtures, with the goal of preventing lead from leaching from any existing lead pipes and/or welds,” she said.

The district completed the repairs in late December, Northeastern Superintendent John Kronour said, and lead levels are back to normal in the school.

“We worked with the Ohio EPA and were able to get lead levels down,” Kronour said. “We did the testing that we needed to do to make sure the water is safe for our students.”

The district also tested 42 other water samples taken from other parts of the school and found their levels were normal, the notice says.

MORE COVERAGE: Lead in Ohio schools: What we know now

The overall cost of the project — including the bottles of water — cost the district more than $14,000. However, Northeastern can get much of that reimbursed by the state.

“Ohio EPA made funding available to assist schools with replacing fixtures when lead has been detected,” Pierce said. “This funding is administered by the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Northeastern High School has been approved and can submit a request for reimbursement.”

All other Northeastern buildings have been approved to submit a request should they run into lead problems, too, she said.

The district plans on looking into the reimbursement process, Kronour said.

READ MORE: Northeastern releases details for proposed $117M new schools

Northeastern isn’t the only district in the region which tested for high lead levels recently.

In Bellbrook schools, Stephen Bell Elementary had 20 water sources test over the EPA limit for lead. In St. Charles Borromeo, of the 75 water sources tested for lead at the Kettering Catholic school, 19 of them were above the EPA lead action level of 15 parts per billion. And in Lakota Schools, Seven fixtures tested too high across five Lakota elementary and early-childhood schools.

By the numbers

$14,000: Overall cost to Northeastern for testing, repairs and bottled water

146 ug/l: Lead levels previously tested at a drinking fountain at Northeastern High School

15 ug/l: The EPA action level for lead in water

3,300: Number of students in Northeastern Local Schools

338: Students enrolled at Northeast High School

In-depth coverage

The Springfield News-Sun provides in-depth coverage of your schools in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on efforts to build new schools and the one-year anniversary of the school shooting in West Liberty.