What’s in your water?

Owen Biniecki, Writer

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Department of Health released a pilot report in Sept. 2018 on levels of lead in Vermont schools’ drinking water. The report revealed that 27 of 900 fountains tested had dangerously high amounts of lead, having lead contents of over 15 parts per billion (ppb). One of these lead-heavy pipes was found in St. Albans City School. These schools being the prominent concern behind the legislation.

The pilot report prompted Vermont Congress to pass legislation regarding legal amounts of lead in school drinking water, especially in the wake of Flint, MI’s drinking water crisis that began in 2014. The lead content standards have been risen, from 15 ppb of lead being declared dangerous, to five ppb being declared dangerous following the new legislation.

The primary concern of the new legislation is the possibility of lead, a rather dangerous neurotoxin being present in children’s drinking water, which can cause damage to the central nervous system, learning disabilities, slowed growth, and impaired function of blood cells in children.

The Vermont House, and Senate’s new legislation, being pushed by Governor Phil Scott, has set an agenda to have schools statewide tested within 2019.

In a previous article, Faith in our Filters, former Facilities Manager, Scott Martin, planned to have tests done within the month of October in 2018, however, his departure has caused the test to be pushed back, until now.

Current Facilities Manager, Len Smith, has reportedly performed preliminary tests, taking samples from each water source that BFA takes from, unfiltered, they tested at or lower than one ppb, however, one source did test at four ppb, still well below the national standard of 15 ppb and the bottled water content standard at five ppb.

The age of BFA’s plumbing system is unknown, as explained by Martin in further detail in Faith in our Filters. This can be a cause of concern, as older pipes are more likely to carry higher contents of lead than newer systems.

The school’s drinking fountains themselves have filtration systems. The model of filtration system used, the NSF/ ANSI 53, is a design certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to remove contaminants such as lead from water. This means that even if there was a content of lead in the pipes, it would be filtered out before being ingested.