Local schools find lead in water; more now plan to test

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 12:01 AM

Lead in water is especially dangerous to infants and children.

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.

The Bellbrook, Lakota and Northeastern school districts had water from multiple plumbing fixtures test above the federal limit, as did St. Charles Borromeo School in Kettering, according to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) and school testing records reviewed by this newspaper.

The Miami Valley Career Technology Center and Mother Brunner Catholic School in Trotwood each had one fixture test above the EPA “lead action level” of 15 parts per billion.

EARLIER: Law firm pushes for schools to test water

A plumbing fixture can be a sink faucet, drinking fountain or water cooler. After the Flint, Mich., water crisis, the OFCC managed a $12 million state grant program that reimbursed Ohio schools for testing and replacing lead-affected plumbing fixtures in schools built before 1990, where the risk is higher. About one in every 10 schools tested statewide had at least one fixture over the EPA’s action level.

“We had to get the water safe for kids and adults. That’s the bottom line,” said Bellbrook schools’ Interim Superintendent Jeff Lewis. “Even if we spent some district money, at least we can rest at night knowing that our water is good.”

Ellis Jacobs, a Dayton attorney at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, which has studied the lead issue, said his biggest concern is that many schools haven’t tested for lead in water at all.

Beavercreek, Springboro, Franklin and West Carrollton are among the school districts that told this newspaper they’ve done no testing, while Kettering has not tested since renovations were completed close to 15 years ago.

RELATED: Lead found in Miami Valley Hospital water

“Ingesting lead affects neurological development,” said Tom Hut, who oversees the childhood lead poisoning prevention program for Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County. “It’s been proven that learning disabilities and lower IQ are associated with lead exposure at very low levels. The higher the blood lead level, the greater the health impact.”

Federal and state law do not require most schools to test for lead in water. But Hut said Public Health would encourage all schools to test. He said certified testing costs about $12 per faucet or other water source.

Multiple local school districts, including Kettering, Vandalia-Butler, Franklin and Miamisburg, said they are now looking into testing their water in 2018.

“There was a flurry of activity between us last week when you asked for the public records,” Kettering schools Business Manager Ken Lackey said.

Over the limit

** Bellbrook: Stephen Bell Elementary had 20 water sources test over the EPA limit for lead, the highest number of any local school in the OFCC program. Almost all of those 20 tested between 15 and 30 parts per billion, while another dozen fixtures at Stephen Bell tested just below the standard, falling between 12 and 15 parts per billion, according to reports from Dayton Environmental Testing LLC.

For each case over the limit, the school district replaced the plumbing fixture in question and then retested, according to the contractor. Sinks in one classroom and two teacher work rooms were still over the limit after replacement, so the district paid to add filtration devices that solved the problem.

RELATED: Lead-in-water violations not rare in Ohio

However, four sinks in Classroom A21 still tested above the lead limit even after filtration was added.

“They’re all in this old art room that’s now used for storage,” Lewis said. “If it ever gets to the point where they cause a risk, we’ll just pull them out. Right now they’re in areas where no one’s using them.”

Bellbrook had a similar unresolved issue with four of the seven elevated tests at the Sugarcreek Education Center, which now serves as the school board office building. Lewis said the kitchen and stage area where those four sinks are located has been unused for years. The three sources that tested high at Bell Creek Intermediate school were all replaced successfully.

** Lakota: 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.

RELATED: Leaders aim to end child lead poisoning

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 OFCC 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.”

** St. Charles Borromeo: Of the 75 water sources tested for lead at the Kettering Catholic school, 19 of them were above the EPA “lead action level” of 15 parts per billion, and all were replaced, according to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. School marketing officials directed questions to Business Manager Steve Morris, but Morris said he was “unable to comment” on the lead abatement project.

** Northeastern: Four water sources at Northeastern High School – from a classroom, a science lab, the library and a drinking fountain – tested over EPA limits in July and August, according to district documents. The drinking fountain was by far the worst, at almost 10 times the federal standard.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Top Ohio, Dayton education stories of 2017

The school disabled those four fixtures, provided bottled water for students and staff, and posted messages to the community on its website.

“NEHS will be implementing a corrosion program as well as a revised water system flushing program with the goal of reducing the amount of lead in their water,” the notice said. “Periodic water samples will be taken to monitor the water quality.”

Other schools, issues

Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of corrosion in lead fixtures, service-line pipes and lead-based solder used to join pipes, according to the EPA. In 1986, Congress set limits on the amount of lead that could be used in faucets, pipes, solder and other plumbing materials.

Illinois and California have passed laws in the past year that require schools to test for lead in water. And recent tests showing high lead levels range from schools in San Francisco and Arizona to Ohio and Pennsylvania.

EDUCATION: Relaxed graduation standards may be extended

The vast majority of local schools did not participate in the recent state-reimbursed testing – some because they were built after 1990 and therefore ineligible. Middletown, Tipp City and Fairborn were among the school districts that did test dozens of fixtures and found no elevated lead levels, according to OFCC data.

And some districts, including Oakwood, Mad River, Hamilton and Clark-Shawnee, did lead testing in some of their schools outside of the state program.

Stan Bochenek, buildings and grounds supervisor for Mad River schools, said his district tested six drinking fountains at its central office/preschool building, their only school built before 2004. They replaced one fountain that tested just over twice the federal lead limit.

EDUCATION: Dayton school task force to meet in public

Kettering and Centerville schools did significant remodeling around the turn of the century, with Lackey saying Kettering replaced galvanized pipes with copper at the time, limiting lead risks. But the district will do testing this year. Centerville schools spokeswoman Sarah Swan said many of their schools have installed filtered water fountains in the past few years.

Hut, from public health, said most local cases of lead poisoning trace to ingestion of paint chips or dust, not contaminated water. But he said the high-profile Flint, Mich., case shows that it does happen.

“There is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood,” Hut said. “Those systems should be tested.”

OUR INVESTIGATION

This newspaper studied state data on school lead testing, then requested original documents from more than 20 local schools and districts to see how local students were affected.

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Rain returns this week, flooding a concern

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 4:27 AM
Updated: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 10:34 PM

Multiple chances for rain this week are leading to some flooding concerns in the Dayton area.

Clouds will be on the increase overnight tonight as rain approaches toward daybreak Monday. Temperatures overnight will be steady in the upper 30s and lower 40s.

  • Rain returns tomorrow
  • More rain mid-week
  • Flooding possible the next few days

MONDAY: Rain returns, and it could be heavy at times. While the chance for storms is not all that high, it can’t be ruled out. Highs will be in the lower to middle 60s.

TUESDAY: More dry time is expected, but storms will be possible later in the evening. Highs will be near 70 degrees.

WEDNESDAY: Rain showers are expected with highs near 60 degrees.

THURSDAY: The chance for rain continues mainly south. Highs will be in the middle 40s. 

FRIDAY: The chance for rain returns again Friday. Highs will be in the middle 50s.

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Self-proclaimed white nationalist banned from Seattle gym

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 12:07 AM

A Seattle gym banned Greg Johnson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. (Photo: KIRO7.com)
A Seattle gym banned Greg Johnson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. (Photo: KIRO7.com)

A self-proclaimed white nationalist was banned from a Fremont gym after the owners learned he is a leader in the alt-right community.

>> Read more trending news

The owners of Northwest Fitness Project say Greg Johnson is longer welcome there.

“The trainer terminated his contract and we banned him from the gym,” said Kyle Davis, a co-owner of the gym.

It's a move that has some people wondering if it violates a city ordinance that says "places of public accommodation" can't discriminate based on a person's beliefs.

But the owners of the gym say that ordinance doesn't apply -- because it’s not a public space. To use the space, you must be the client of a trainer.

“There’s no open gym membership, it's not like people can come and go as they please,” Davis said. “Trainers come and run their own businesses out of this location."

“There's a right of first refusal of the independent trainer. And (the trainer) chose to not work with him anymore due to the harm it would cause his reputation, and not wanting to be associated with those views,” Davis said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Greg Johnson an "international figure for white nationalism” and “one of the leading voices of the far-right.”

In September 2017, the New York Times interviewed him undercover and posted it on its website.

In the interview, Johnson says, “I would identify myself as a white nationalist. That states the goals I have politically.”

When asked about people who are Jewish, Johnson says, “The solution would ultimately (be) to expel them.”

Davis said he’s disturbed to hear Johnson’s views.

“I would feel threatened, yes,” he said. “I'm converting to Judaism, my fiancée is Jewish and we want to raise our kids Jewish.”

The owners say after Johnson was banned, a white nationalist publication told followers to post negative reviews on the gym's Yelp and Facebook pages.

“We were at a five (star average review); it went down to a three,” said Matthew Holland, the other co-owner of Northwest Fitness Project.

But hundreds of people supported the gym on social media, helping it bounce back.

“Now we're to like a 4.8,” Holland said. “We have a great community and we didn't realize how awesome they all were. Going through a rough time like this, it was just so encouraging.”

The Puget Sound Anarchists first published last week that Johnson lives in Seattle. It’s also how the gym owners found out about Johnson’s beliefs.

Johnson did not comment.

The gym said it heard Johnson left the area.

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WPAFB Monday Forecast: Soggy day with heavy rain

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 11:40 PM

A false alarm in a building led to a temporary gate closure Wednesday night in Area B, a base spokeswoman said.
Staff Writer
A false alarm in a building led to a temporary gate closure Wednesday night in Area B, a base spokeswoman said.(Staff Writer)

A soggy start to your Monday is expected.

Widespread showers will be around during the morning, some of which could be heavy at times. There is even the chance for a few rumbles of thunder.

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

Ponding on the roads will be a concern through the morning. Even though we’re expecting a lot of rain and clouds Monday, temperatures will warm into the 60s in the afternoon.

> County-By-County Weather

There will be some breaks in the rain during the afternoon and evening.

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Several sinkholes open in Florida neighborhood, threaten homes

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 11:24 PM

Several sinkholes opened in a Florida neighborhood. (Photo: WFTV.com)
Several sinkholes opened in a Florida neighborhood. (Photo: WFTV.com)

Several sinkholes opened in The Villages Thursday, threatening several homes, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. 

>> Read more trending news

Four homes have been evacuated. Officials said the largest of the three holes is 35 feet deep and 18 feet wide. 

One of the sinkholes that opened up is outside Frank Newman’s home.

He said he heard strange sounds and wasn’t sure what was going on.

“At about 12:30 I was watching the Olympics when I heard something that I thought was thunder,” Newman said.

Hours later, he found out what was actually going on.

“My front door bell rings about 3:10. It was a policeman saying, ‘You got to get out of your house,’” Newman said.

Marion County Emergency Management was also at the scene and said that utilities to the four closest homes have been disconnected as a precaution.

The sinkholes go beneath two of the homes.

Photos: Sinkholes open in Villages neighborhood

Cracks formed outside Newman’s neighbor’s home and a hole opened up near her front door.

“In her house, she is seeing cracks inside the house on the floor and stuff,” Newman said. “She can’t get her car out of the garage because the garage door won’t open.”

Signs have been placed outside some of the homes warning the houses have been condemned.

Golf course officials are draining a lake to help the situation. Utilities officials said that if a water main break occurs, they will be able to handle it, but 20 homes could potentially lose water service if that happens.

Residents were allowed to briefly return to their homes to pick up some belongings.

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