Contaminated drinking water found at 2 Falls schools
By Brittany Seemuth, originally posted on November 17, 2016
Village of Menomonee Falls – A classroom sink has tested positive for copper at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, and the bacteria coliform was found in the water at Valley View Elementary School in the Menomonee Falls School District.
The copper was found in a classroom in the 4K wing at Ben Franklin Elementary. The district said the copper and coliform issues are not related.
Students and staff in the 4K wing at Ben Franklin and all students and staff at Valley View have been restricted to drinking bottled water only.
Dorian Medrow’s family has been impacted by both contamination cases as her stepson attends Ben Franklin and her stepdaughter attends Valley View.
“I wasn’t aware of the situation until my stepdaughter’s parent-teacher conference yesterday (Wednesday, Nov. 16) at Valley View when I was handed a bottle of water and told not to use the bubbler,” Medrow said. “I do not remember seeing any form of communication come through the kids’ take-home folders and yet this has been going on for, what I’ve been told, around three weeks. Thankfully, students are being provided clean drinking water in the form of bottled water, but I just would have liked to know what is going on and what is being done to rectify the situation. I also wonder, why, if this has been a known issue at Valley View for weeks, that they are just now finding contamination at Ben Franklin. I’m worried about how much copper or other contaminants students and teachers had been consuming before this was discovered.”
Six other locations in Ben Franklin tested negative for copper. All other schools in the district have been tested for copper and lead, but those results came back negative.
The district is not certain how much money the district-wide copper and lead testing has costed.
“It is the village’s responsibility to ensure clean water in regards to coliform bacteria,” said Megan Sheridan, director of communications for the district. “Their work does not cost the district anything. As for the copper and lead testing, the cost is negligible in relation to ensuring the health and safety of our students and staff. Keith Brightman (director of finance and operation) has reached out to our testing company to provide a total invoice for all of the samples taken. I do not have that exact number.”
According to the Department of Natural Resources, Valley View needs to have two clean tests at the original test site before the issue is considered resolved.
“Per the village, it appears that the problem may be coming from one of the supplemental underground water reservoirs that is located near Valley View,” Sheridan said. “This reservoir is used in case of an emergency draw on the water system (like a large fire emergency) and is a mix of municipal water and well water. The reservoir has been taken offline and we are waiting on results.”
Letters were sent to all families in the district on Wednesday, Nov. 16, regarding the Ben Franklin contamination:
“The School District of Menomonee Falls is not required to test for copper and lead, nor is any other school district in the state, but we feel it is important to be proactive in order to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff … there have been no concerning or elevated reports of these issues in the 4K wing. Our facilities team is working to resolve the issue and plan to retest water lines at Ben Franklin on Thursday, Nov. 17.”
Results from the water testing at Ben Franklin will be available after Thanksgiving.
In another letter sent out to district families at the end of October, the district said the coliform bacteria found at Valley View would not put the health of students or staff at risk. Coliform is associated with E. coli; however, the water tested negative for that bacteria. The district is working on flushing and sanitizing the system and will retest the water at Valley View.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high levels of copper in the body can lead to gastrointestinal issues and is most commonly associated with liver damage and kidney disease.
The district urged families who may have health concerns to contact district nurse Julie Italiano-Thomas at 262-250-6483 or firstname.lastname@example.org.