High lead levels found in Farmington schools’ water

by Aileen Wingblad, originally posted on April 27, 2016


Water in four Farmington Public Schools buildings has lead levels exceeding state guidelines and another building has copper levels exceeding state guidelines, prompting additional testing this Saturday.

FPS Superintendent George Heitsch said he’s not surprised at the results from the April 16 district-wide water sampling and analysis, due to the “age of (the district’s) facilities.” The levels aren’t excessively high, he noted, “and we don’t believe we have a serious issue, but we’re taking it seriously. We’re exploring every option to make sure our kids and staff are safe.”

Water flowing into district buildings has acceptable levels of lead and copper as determined by regular testing, Heitsch said, which means the sources of the trace elements are somewhere within the schools.

The district revealed the results and covered the affected drinking fountains – two in the hallways at Beechview Elementary and one in Warner Upper Elementary’s gym – April 26. A kitchen sink at Harrison High School and a faucet in a North Farmington High School science classroom were other “fixtures” which have shown to have higher lead levels. They’re still in use but the water isn’t OK’d for drinking – and never has been – explained Diane Bauman, director of school/community relations.

Higher copper levels were found at a hallway drinking fountain at Visions Unlimited, a school for impaired students housed in the former Cloverdale building. It, too, has been covered.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sets drinking water standards for lead at 15 parts per billion. Heitsch said lead levels were as high as 37 parts per billion at the four schools. Information on the copper levels at Visions Unlimited has not yet been released due to the report being “preliminary,” Bauman said.

According to Jon Manier, FPS executive director of instructional support services, the district “asked for the lab results (from Saturday’s round of testing) to be rushed,” and are expected in “just a handful of days.” The next steps will be to “work backward” to determine the source of the lead and copper, such as the fixtures themselves or piping, Manier said. An action plan and timeline to fix the problem will then be developed.

Heitsch said the district is tapping the general fund to pay for the testing and analysis, conducted by Arch Environmental Group, Inc. Depending on the scope of the project, replacing fixtures or infrastructure to remedy the lead/copper issues could possibly be covered by the $135.1 million bond approved by voters last May, he said.

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