Office of Environment Finds Unsafe Lead Levels in Centennial High School’s Water

Words: Delanie Tucker

Photos: Zach Grable

In the past two months at Centennial High School, students and faculty have been very cautious with their water consumption due to lead reports released in early November by the Howard County School Board.

The reports, which consisted of the results of the lead tests from several Howard County schools, show that 10 of 58 samples taken at Centennial on November 3, 2018 came back positive for levels of lead above the Action Level of 20 parts per billion (ppb).

Tests were taken from all spigots that provide water for consumption; these spigots include water fountains and kitchen sinks.

Other sources of water, such as showers or bathroom sinks, were not tested, as they are not intended to provide drinking water.

Although these lead levels are dangerous when consumed, it is not a current issue, as all affected pipes were shut off within 24 hours of testing, according to a Centennial High School Notice released by Centennial principal, Cynthia Dillon, on November 12.

“The ten impacted water outlets have been shut off, so they cannot be accessed,” Dillon said in the notice. “Currently, no harm is being done because people are not drinking from those outlets.”

Of the original samples taken, 11 came back positive, one of which was voided due to the sampled faucet not being a drinking source.

Of the other ten, four contained under 25 ppb, one between 25 and 30 ppb, two between 30 and 35 ppb, and three above 35 ppb.

The three above 35 ppb were from a sink in the indoor concession stand, a sink in the Family and Consumer Science classroom, and a planning area sink for teachers.

Several steps need to be taken before the county even considers turning the water back on in these areas. They include evaluating the cause of the lead build up, replacing specific fixtures as necessary, or bypassing sources of lead in the plumbing.

If nothing works, the impacted fixture will be permanently shut down.

“The pipes won’t be turned back on until these things are done,” Dillon stated. “They’re going to evaluate whether or not it’s the fixture or something else that’s causing lead in the water. There may be some that they determine they can’t fix and they may permanently turn it off.”

The Howard County School Board Office of the Environment is working to the best of its abilities to fix the problem.

“It’s a big problem and we need to ensure the central office remediates the issues because we want our school to be safe.”

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