High lead levels detected at 2 schools in Liberty

The district shut off drinking fountains at E.J. Blott Elementary School and W.S. Guy Middle School

Lead was detected in some of the drinking fountains at Liberty's middle and elementary schools.

LIBERTY TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Liberty Local Schools shut off drinking fountains at two of its buildings Thursday evening after discovering high levels of lead in some of the fountains.

The school district found water containing lead levels exceeding the EPA threshold of safety in drinking fountains at E.J. Blott Elementary School and W.S. Guy Middle School. They are currently providing bottled water to students there.

“There was no problem in any of the buildings with any of our kitchens or cafeteria operations,” said Liberty Superintendent Stan Watson. “None of the hand-washing [sinks] or any of that was an issue. It was all places where there was drinking water.”

Watson did not have the exact lead levels but says some of the drinking fountains were barely above the EPA threshold for lead in drinking water, while some were further above the threshold.

“There’s a guy right down the hall here that works here,” Watson said. “He told me ‘I’ve been drinking water out of that drinking fountain every day for 37 years.’ It’s certainly something that we take seriously.”

A public health inspector for Trumbull County said that the Health Department only advises schools and demonstrates how to properly gather water for testing. The Health Department does not submit lead samples for schools.

Parents of children from E.J. Blott Elementary School said they received a robo-call from the district Thursday night informing them of the high lead levels. Some are concerned that they don’t know how long their kids have been drinking lead-tainted water.

Watson says this is the first time he can remember conducting lead tests at the school buildings, which are about six decades old.

“Two big instances that we’ve had in Flint and Warren and so forth have been the catalyst for people to start to look at this and see what’s going on,” he said.

The district plans to replace drinking fountains at the two buildings, at a cost of $700 for each fountain.

In the wake of high lead levels in Sebring, the Ohio House is considering a bill that would, in part, provide money to schools to replace pipes and fountains.

“It would be tremendously helpful,” Watson said. “These new stand-alone drinking fountains that have a refrigeration unit are tremendously expensive.”

None of the fountains tested at Liberty High School were above the EPA threshold for lead.

The Tribune-Chronicle reported that Liberty Schools will start replacing some of its drinking fountains on Monday.

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