So far, so good for Falls schools in second round of water tests

Feb 6, 2017

The Niagara Falls Public School District is proceeding with the second round of state-mandated tests for lead levels in its water sources. While levels above the state's safety threshold were found among a few samples in the first round, early returns on the follow-up round suggest the schools' water is safe.

Among the hundreds of samples taken, dozens were determined in first-round testing to contain lead levels above the state's acceptable limit of 15 parts per billion. Only three sources in question, according to a report posted on the school district's website, were identified as drinking fountains. Most sources exceeding 15 ppb were identified as sinks or other outlets not used to supply drinking water.

Credit WBFO file photo

"In the sites that were cited in the first round, many are sources that are not used frequently," said Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie. "For instance, at the high school, I believe between 10 and 13 of them were hose bibbs outside of the school."

Laurrie explained that any sources found to have lead levels above the state's acceptable limit were taken out of use. A second round of testing is required to determine what remediation, if any, is required. State officials allow the schools to conduct a flush test for the second round, allowing for a momentary flow of water before taking a sample.

The elementary schools were tested first, as required by the state, followed by the middle schools, high school and administrative building. 

The earliest returns from the second round, from five elementary schools, indicate all are safe by state standards: Hyde Park, Henry J. Kalfas, Maple Avenue, 79th Street and Geraldine J. Mann Schools. As of Monday morning, test results were still awaited from three other elementary schools - Harry Abate, Cataract Elementary and Niagara Street - as well as Gaskill and LaSalle Preparatory middle schools and Niagara Falls High School. 

Many of the district's older buildings were found to have minimal actionable-level samples in first-round sampling, including Gaskill and LaSalle Preparatory.

"Those have very few sources and they're two of our older schools," Laurrie said.

Maple Avenue Elementary, a building which is about 90 years old according to the superintendent, had only one questionable sample among 33 taken in its initial round.

Should levels above 15 ppb turn up a second time, remediation would include the replacement of faucets. Laurrie is "hopeful" there will be few such repairs needed.

"I'm very pleased that we're not getting massive numbers of sources meaning there's a problem in the pipes," he said. 

A field house and maintenance barn, both recently constructed, showed safe levels in their first test.