All Mohawk schools closed after water tested positive for E. coli

The Mohawk Area School District decided to close Tuesday after the Department of Environmental Protection put it under a boil advisory

by Dave Sess, originally posted on January 17, 2017


BESSEMER, Pa. (WKBN) – Water tested at Mohawk High School came back positive for coliform bacteria, including E. coli, forcing the school to close Tuesday and Wednesday.

Water can be a source of trouble year-round, but especially after heavy rain when it can be contaminated by animal or human waste.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) identified the water issue at Mohawk High School.

Water at the elementary school is clean because that building runs on a different system.

The DEP regional office said the high school doesn’t have to stay closed but in order to stay open, it would have to provide safe drinking and hand-washing water.

The boil advisory won’t be lifted until the water has been clean for two straight days.

WKBN 27 First News tried contacting Superintendent Leitera, but he was too busy to talk. He did release a statement posted on the district’s website, however:

This message is to inform you that school will be canceled for tomorrow, Wednesday, January 18th. Due to the flash flooding and heavy rains of last week, the well system at the high school complex sustained some damage, and some testing samples came back beyond the allowable DEP thresholds. The District is working with our well company and the Department of Environmental Protection to tie the high school into the elementary well. The elementary school runs on a completely separate water system and has passed all tests as required by the Department of Environmental Protection. However, the entire district will be closed as there will be mechanical work being conducted that the contractors will be better able to be complete without any students or activity on campus. Also, the district must test water samples for two days after tying into the system in order to meet Department of Environmental Protection regulations. The district is taking all precautions to ensure water quality in the high school, and is taking a measured and cautious approach to ensure student safety. Please check back here each day for updates on the situation. While the cancellations are inconvenient, we appreciate your cooperation as we ensure the best learning environment possible for your child. Again, school will be cancelled for tomorrow, Wednesday, January 18th.

The Mocha House in the center of Bessemer was full of students Tuesday, looking for a place to hang out.

“It’s been great that we’ve been able to be open today. We started this business in this community so we can be a gathering place,” Cheri Ponziani said. “When school closes last minute, it’s been great that our doors are open and these kids have places to come.”

She wasn’t worried about the high school water problem, though, even if the students go back and have to use bottled water.

“It doesn’t change my opinion at all. They found a problem. When they found it, they called in the proper people to fix and I don’t think they’ll bring the kids back until it’s fixed,” Ponziani said. “As a parent, I’m thankful that they saw a problem, they took appropriate action to fix it. They’re fixing it starting today and hopefully, they go back to school tomorrow.”

A couple of students said they’re not allowed to bring open containers to school, out of fear the drinks might be spiked.

“I don’t think carrying a bottle of water if it would come to that, would be out of the norm for any kid to have to do. I also trust that they’re not going to bring these kids back on campus if it’s not safe for them,” Ponziani said.

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