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Amid school lead concerns, Middletown elementary gets water station

Published: Monday, January 29, 2018 @ 5:30 AM
By: Michael D. Clark - Staff Writer

When it comes to kids choosing what to drink each day, it’s a sugar-soaked world, but students at Amanda Elementary now have an easy and portable option beyond soft drinks.

The Middletown school has a new water bottle filling station and Friday passed out personal water bottles – labeled with “Rethink Your Drink” - to its more than 400 students.

School water quality has grabbed headlines in recent weeks as an investigation by this news organization revealed potentially hazardous levels of lead in some Ohio schools in recent years, including some locally.

Middletown did test water fixtures in its nine schools and found no elevated lead levels, officials said.

MORE: Area schools find more lead in water and plan to test in future

Amanda is the first school in the Butler County district to receive a filling station, where students can replenish their water bottle as often as they like, and one of only a handful in Southwest Ohio to offer the water option beyond the traditional school drinking fountain.

School nurse Tina Smith applied for a grant from a $200,000 campaign by Delta Dental Foundation and said she was concerned by school children not drinking enough water and overindulging in sugary and harmful soda drinks.

“I thought it was really important for the kids to learn healthy drinking habits now as opposed to waiting until they are older. It will help them have not so many health problems,” said Smith, who added the portability factor of students having easy, individual access to water at any time is a big plus.

“And also the kids can have the water bottles in class,” said Smith, who explained that prior to the installation of the filling station students having a water bottle in class required a doctor’s note.

“There are a lot of kids that have dehydration, and that causes problems with not being able to focus,” she said.

Middletown Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said the new water bottle program reflects the district’s mission to help the whole student, including providing nutritionally sound liquid options during the school day.

MORE: 1st in-school clinic coming to Middletown Schools 

Styles was at the pep rally where Amanda’s more than 400 elementary students were given their individual water bottles – each with a colorful pamphlet explaining the benefits of hydration and showing the excessive amounts of sugar in soda and juice drinks.

“We do try to invest in healthy living habits for our students. Students are receiving water bottles, and we are encouraging them to drink more water, and that has a direct reflection on their life and life-long habits in regards to living a healthy lifestyle,” said Styles.

MORE: Middletown school leader wins national award

Amanda is now one of 54 schools in Ohio to receive a filling station, joining Talawanda’s Middle School and Lakota’s Hopewell Elementary as offering the bottled water option.

Water from drinking fountains and sink faucets in more than a dozen local school buildings were found to have elevated levels of lead in the past two years, leading local school districts to replace some water infrastructure.

Hazardous levels of lead – usually as the result of corrosion in lead fixtures, service-line pipes and lead-based solder used to join pipes – have been found in some Ohio schools.

In 1986, Congress set limits on the amount of lead that could be used in faucets, pipes, solder and other plumbing materials.

Some of Lakota Schools’ 22 buildings were among those cited in the recent report by this news organization showing the drinking water for students has higher than acceptable lead levels.

MORE: 20th anniversary for Lakota’s unique, identical pair of high schools

Seven fixtures tested too high across five Lakota elementary and early-childhood schools – Shawnee, Adena, Creekside, Freedom and Hopewell – and all were replaced. One fixture at Freedom Elementary was 52 times higher than the federal limit, at 790 parts per billion, according to the testing documents. Another at Adena was 11 times the EPA limit.

Chris Passarge, chief operations officer for the school district, said Lakota did not do follow-up testing on those that were replaced.

“We replaced anything that had a positive reading regardless of (whether it was over the federal limit),” Passarge said, pointing to Ohio Facilities Construction Commission data showing that Lakota replaced 23 fixtures.

“In most cases (it was) the sink in the classroom. We had a couple of sinks in the café at Freedom, Liberty Jr. and Creekside.”

(Dayton Daily News Staff Writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this story.)

VIDEO: See the students at Amanda Elementary get their personal bottles for a new water filling station @journal-news.com