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August 1, 2018

 

Dear Barrie Community,


As you may be aware, as of 2018 all Maryland public and nonpublic schools are required to sample drinking water outlets for the presence of lead. In an abundance of caution, lead concentration levels above 20 parts per billion (which is 0.002 mg/L) are now required by the Code of Maryland Regulations to be remediated.  


I want to personally tell you that I think this is a very good law. In fact, one of my first jobs as a young scientist out of college was to conduct similar lead sampling procedures for schools and homes in a community in Massachusetts as part of a grant through the National Science Foundation. I can assure you that at my instruction, our staff at Barrie took this process very seriously and we followed all the procedures exactly as instructed. As a fellow Barrie school and camp parent, I also wanted to know if there were water issues so we could fix them. My toddler and six year old need safe water to drink just like all children.


Also from my own professional experience, I can tell you that the tests are designed to function as an early warning system. The tests conducted were "first flush" – with water sitting still in pipes for at least 12 hours so that the very first water when turning on the tap could be collected and tested. While the first few ounces of water out of a tap are rarely consumed this way under normal conditions, it is a very good conservative measure to gauge the potential for lead in water.


On June 30, 2018, 162 water samples were collected in this manner across Barrie's campus and tested by an independent company, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) Laboratory Division. Of these 162 samples representing every drinking fountain or sink on campus, 18 had levels exceeding 0.002 mg/L. While we are taking immediate remedial action (see below), most of these results are just above the limit and all but one are from hand-washing sinks.


The results of these tests were provided to us by WSSC on July 23, 2018 for the following Toddler and Primary classrooms. (Please note that Toddler and Primary students almost always drink water either from home or from purified water coolers professionally delivered to campus and not out of the outlets below.)

  • McDermott Hall - Cathy Carpenters's classroom sink - .00283 mg/L
  • McDermott Hall - Cathy Carpenters's bathroom sink - .00213 mg/L
  • Founder's Hall - Playground water fountain - .00337 mg/L
  • Founder's Hall - Denise Murtha's adult bathroom sink - .00232 mg/L
  • Founder's Hall - Jill Nowacek's low classroom sink - .00238 mg/L
  • Founder's Hall - Jill Nowacek's bathroom sink - .00269 mg/L 

WSSC also provided us test results on July 23, 2018 for the following additional areas on campus: 

  • Rothschild Hall - Library sink with water bottle filler - .00282 mg/L
  • Rothschild Hall - Paula Gallagher's classroom sink - .00205 mg/L
  • Rothschild Hall - 3rd classroom sink with water bottle filler - .0106 mg/L
  • Strauss Gymnasium - First bathroom sink - .00314 mg/L
  • Main Administration - Development Office Bathroom sink - .00332 mg/L
  • Pool House - Girls bathroom sinks - .0041 and .00406 mg/L
  • Pool House - Boys bathroom sink - .0185 mg/L
  • Upper Elementary Building - Music Classroom bathroom sink - .540 mg/L (Please note that this bathroom sink had not been used or flushed for a month prior to the testing)
  • Upper Elementary Building - Music Classroom sink - .00288 mg/L
  • Prep Language Building - Girl's bathroom sink - .0229 mg/L
  • Prep Art House - Bathroom sink - .00232 mg/L


IMMEDIATE ACTIONS TAKEN

Within a day of receiving WSSC's report, Barrie immediately took the following actions:

  • The bathroom sinks with elevated lead levels were immediately labeled "for hand washing only"
  • The one outdoor drinking fountain with an elevated level was turned off and will not be turned back on until remediating steps are taken
  • Following Maryland regulations, we initiated a process to perform flush tests on all outlets that tested with elevated levels and sent these samples to the WSSC Laboratory Division for further testing.

 

Moving forward, I want to assure you that we are currently retrofitting all impacted sinks and water outlets that are used for drinking with professional grade water filters as appropriate, so that they will exceed water safety standards.


As I am sure you might imagine, since every school in Maryland has begun this testing process over the past few months, over 60 other Montgomery County schools are reporting similar issues on their campuses. I am providing an article here for context.


With the help of our school physician, I am also including some additional information about lead in drinking water as this might be helpful for preventing exposure in your own homes. If you have any questions about this process, please contact me or my assistant Patty Simon at 301-576-2820. For additional information on reducing lead exposure around your home/building and the health effects of lead, visit EPA's website at www.epa.gov/lead. If you are concerned about exposure; contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead.


With warmth and appreciation,

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Jon Kidder

Head of School

HEALTH EFFECTS OF LEAD

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Lead is stored in the bones and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the fetus receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults.


SOURCES OF HUMAN EXPOSURE TO LEAD

There are many different sources of human exposure to lead. These include: lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust or soil, some plumbing materials, certain types of pottery, pewter, brass fixtures, food, and cosmetics, exposure in the workplace and exposure from certain hobbies, brass faucets, fittings, and valves. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10 to 20 percent of a person's potential exposure to lead may come from drinking water, while for an infant consuming formula mixed with lead-containing water this may increase to 40 to 60 percent.


TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO LEAD IN DRINKING WATER IN YOUR OWN HOME

Run your water to flush out lead: If water hasn't been used for several hours, run water for 15 to 30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula: Lead from the plumbing dissolves more easily into hot water.

 

Please note that boiling the water will not reduce lead levels..

 
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Barrie School

13500 Layhill Road • Silver Spring, MD 20906
(301) 576-2800
 • www.barrie.org

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