McKinley closed 2 days to address water contamination
By Laura Weiss, originally posted on November 12, 2016
FAIRFIELD — McKinley Elementary Schoolclosed last week after a representative of a district-hired contractor erroneously poured anti-corrosive liquid into the school’s hot water system instead of the boiler.
The accident occurred sometime after noon on Oct. 31 and led to a two-day shut-down of McKinley. The school reopened Nov. 3 after lab testing of the facility’s water came back clean, Interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy said.
Following the contamination, the district received no reports of symptoms from students, teachers or staff. Tracy said health officials informed the district the only ill effects would occur if someone drank from a hot water tap during the roughly hour-and-a-half window between the contamination’s occurrence and the school shutting off the water, or used the hot water for hand-washing.
If ingested, symptoms would include brief gastrointestinal distress. If used for hand-washing, minor temporary hand irritation could have occurred.
“No one has reported any ill effects,” Tracy said.
He said the district is happy the error was caught quickly and McKinley students are now back in school.
On Oct. 31, a representative of the contractor maintaining the school’s boiler system introduced about a gallon of the anti-corrosive liquid to the hot water system, according to Tracy. The school’s water was shut off after custodial staff was notified about the error around 1:30 p.m. and students finished the school day with a warning not to use the water.
The school was closed Nov. 1 and 2, though teachers reported to other Fairfield schools for training and workshops during the second day of the closure. Tracy said the decision to close McKinley was related to the conclusion that the chemical was only introduced to the hot water portion of the system, but that the cold water system may have still seen some contamination.
On Nov. 1, the building’s water systems were flushed out. Because the anti-corrosive liquid was water soluble, flushing out the system rid it of the contamination, Tracy said.
The following day, Nov. 2, York Analytical Laboratories, an independent facility in Stratford, provided the district with analysis of 30 water samples from throughout the school. After reviewing the results, Tracy said toxic elements the lab tested for were “well below the standard level.” The results prompted a decision late that evening to reopen McKinley on Nov. 3.
With schools reopened, Tracy plans to work with the school’s principal and faculty to decide whether they will address the lost school days.