By Linda Kor
Administrators of the Holbrook Seventh-day Adventist Indian School (SDA) received an unpleasant surprise in February when they received a phone call from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) stating that one of their water faucets may contain lead. What was most surprising is that that water sample had been taken in July 2013.
“It was very surprising. We were notified that the water from a faucet in our church was shown to contain lead. We’ve provided additional samples since that time and they’ve been fine,” said Paul Ojeda, principal of the school.
Ojeda said he suspects that the faucet where the original sample came from showed lead in it since it is rarely used. “This is an older building, but it has no lead pipes so I suspect it’s in the solder that was used on the pipes and with the water sitting in there too long, it leached into it,” he said.
Ojeda also noted that there were no health issues connected with the water from that location. “A while back we had a volunteer’s child who fell ill and was taken to the hospital, where they suspected lead poisoning. So we took water samples in January of 2015 and they came back fine. We asked the family to check in other locations where the child had been since there were family members living where exposure to lead in the water, or even the paint, was possible,” he said.
Ojeda said that as a precaution, the faucet would be labeled stating that the water may contain lead and that if used, the water needs to run for four to five minutes first. “I’m waiting for the official wording from ADEQ to make certain we have it correct,” stated Ojeda.
According to Caroline Oppleman of ADEQ, the call was made to the school after the department chose to review water samples submitted since 2012 from each of their 950 water providers and discovered that they had not been properly notified by the school’s certified water analyst regarding the outcome of the test.
Oppleman explained that test results were submitted to ADEQ in August 2013, but as part of that procedure, a letter notifying the department whether the test results exceeded the lead action level and where the samples were taken should have also been submitted. “If we are properly notified, we then send a letter to the system operator to remind them of the regulations and the process they need to follow for further testing,” she stated, adding that a public notification should be made by the school and that had not taken place.
Oppleman also noted that the tests taken in January 2015 were only submitted to the department a few weeks ago, on Feb. 11. “There are specific reporting requirements regarding testing and this was not followed when producing these tests. We are working with the principal of the school at this time to make certain that procedures will be followed,” she said.
According to Oppleman, if ADEQ had received a letter from the school in 2013, it would have been placed on a revised schedule to provide more frequent water samples for review until the issue was resolved. As it stands now, the school has until June 30 to provide samples following the correct reporting requirements.
When asked if the drinking water at the school is safe for consumption Dave Dunaway, the manager of Drinking Water and Monitoring Protection for ADEQ, said that he believed it was. “I have two young children and I would let them drink the water,” he said.
Oppleman added that ADEQ is asking all water providers who have exceeded the lead action level to notify their department, as well as the public, as required per law. “We are currently looking into implementing a electronic tracking system that will assist us in monitoring those providers that have reported lead in their water supply. It’s our mission to protect and enhance public health and Arizona’s environment,” she said.
By Linda Kor