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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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Maryland rain-soaked, flash floods wash out Ellicott City

Published: Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 6:55 PM

Flash flooding covers Rogers Avenue and Main Streets in Ellicott City, Md., Sunday, May 27, 2018. Flash flooding and water rescues are being reported in Maryland as heavy rain soaks much of the state. (Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Kenneth K. Lam/AP
Flash flooding covers Rogers Avenue and Main Streets in Ellicott City, Md., Sunday, May 27, 2018. Flash flooding and water rescues are being reported in Maryland as heavy rain soaks much of the state. (Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun via AP)(Kenneth K. Lam/AP)

Heavy rains soaking much of Maryland have led to flash flooding in parts of the state.

>> Read more trending news

Main Street in Ellicott City, which is just outside of Baltimore, was filled with rushing brown floodwater Sunday afternoon. 

A flash flood emergency was issued for Howard County at 4:40 p.m.

The city was still recovering from a devastating 2016 flood that left two people dead. 

Gov. Larry Hogan has issued a state of emergency and urged residents in flash flood warning areas to seek higher ground.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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‘No place for our kids to go’: Proposed Dayton group home denied

Published: Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 5:58 PM
Updated: Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 5:58 PM

Griffin Academy LLC wants to turn this former nursing home on Blackwood Avenue in East Dayton into a group home for teens in foster care. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Griffin Academy LLC wants to turn this former nursing home on Blackwood Avenue in East Dayton into a group home for teens in foster care. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A company says that Dayton is giving some teens in foster care no place to go after a zoning board denied its request to help establish a new “group home.”

Griffin Academy LLC says that the city’s zoning code does not explicitly define the type of group home for male teens it wants to open at 437 Black Ave. in east Dayton.

The facility would house up to 16 teens in foster care, providing housing, supervision, social services and educational services. 

City of Dayton staff and its zoning administrator say the proposed group home most closely fits the definition of a transitional housing facility, which is not permitted in that neighborhood.

RELATED: Dayton residents, board say ‘no’ to group home for teens

Griffin Academy’s appealed the zoning administrator’s determination that the proposed operation would be transitional housing.

Griffin Academy claims the group home is most like a residential facility, which is permitted in the district. The proposed site of the group home on Blackwood Avenue is a former nursing home that has been vacant for years.

But the Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously voted to uphold the zoning administrator’s refusal.

Griffin Academy did not provide clear and convincing evidence that the zoning administrator’s determination was incorrect and his interpretation seems reasonable, board members said.

City of Dayton staff said the scope of services, length of stay and foster youth clientele for the proposed facility most closely fits the definition of transitional housing.

MORE: Dayton’s $10M deal: Dayton Arcade must reopen by 2020

But Griffin Academy said transitional housing facilities, by the city’s own definition, are run by public or nonprofit agencies, and Griffin Academy is not that — it’s a private company.

Residential facilities, by the city’s definition, are for room and board and other services for developmentally disabled people in a family setting.

The Griffin Academy owners say they are considering taking legal action to try to move forward with opening the group home.

“You are zoning us out,” said Theresa Darr, the company’s owner. “Where are our children supposed to go if we can’t find a place for this in the code?”

“This is just devastating,” she said.

Greg Gantt, an attorney representing Griffin Academy, said other Ohio communities have faced litigation for fair housing law violations after attempting to zone group homes out of existence.

“I believe we fit residential, clearly and convincingly,” Gantt said.

Under the city’s zoning code, uses that are not specifically listed are prohibited, and only if the zoning administrator determines that a proposed use is substantially similar to a permitted use will it be allowed, said John Musto, city of Dayton senior attorney.

In March, some residents who live near the proposed site said a facility for at-risk teens would be a bad fit for the Wright-View neighborhood, which already struggles with crime, drugs and registered sex offenders.

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Customers forced to pay for cheese sue McDonald’s for $5 million, according to lawsuit

Published: Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 6:12 PM

File photo.  (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Two McDonald’s customers with a beef about cheese filed a federal lawsuit alleging the restaurant giant is engaged in deceptive and misleading business practices in its sale of the Quarter Pounder with cheese. 

>> Read more trending news

McDonald’s used to sell four items in the Quarter Pounder category, with or without cheese, with prices ranging from 30 to 90 cents more for cheese than without, then at some point it ended this practice in-store, according to the lawsuit.

"These products cannot be purchased either separately or as part of a value meal, without the customer being overcharged and being compelled to pay for unwanted and undelivered cheese," the lawsuit states, according to The Miami Herald. "McDonald's is being unjustly enriched by these practices, because it receives payment for cheese it does not deliver to its customers."

Cynthia Kissner of Broward County and Leonard Werner of Miami-Dade County filed the class-action lawsuit May 8 asking for $5 million, according to the Herald

The Quarter Pounder was trademarked in 1975 with the following ingredients; a frozen beef patty, sesame seed bun, tablespoon of diced fresh onion, mustard, ketchup and two Heinz pickle slices, according to USA Today.

McDonald’s currently lists the ingredients as; a quarter-pound beef patty, sesame seed bun, pasteurized process American cheese, ketchup, pickle slices and onion. 

The current menu only lists the Quarter Pounder with cheese, however customers have more sandwich options through the restaurant’s app, Andrew Lavin, the attorney who filed the suit, told the Herald

“So McDonald's is offering two specific products: one is a Quarter Pounder and one is a Quarter Pounder with Cheese,” Lavin said. But if you go into the restaurant that option is not available to you."

McDonald’s has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit. 

“We do not believe the claims in this lawsuit have legal merit,” the restaurant told USA Today. "The advertised Quarter Pounder burger comes with cheese. We try to accommodate our customers’ requests by allowing them to customize their orders, such as a Quarter Pounder with no cheese.”

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Arrest made at scene where multiple vehicles were hit by rocks on WB U.S. 35 in Dayton

Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 10:44 PM
Updated: Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 9:49 AM

Multiple vehicles hit by rocks on WB U.S. 35 in Dayton

Nearly 20 motorists pulled over Saturday night in Dayton after their vehicles were struck by rocks while they were traveling west on U.S. 35.

Dayton police arrested one male juvenile at the scene, who admitted throwing rocks according to a Dayton police report. The boy was taken to the Juvenile Justice Center, where he was booked on several counts of vandalism. He said he had an accomplice, another male juvenile, but it was not clear whether that youth was arrested as well.

Thomas Acco of Jefferson Twp. and his girlfriend had just dropped off their children and were headed home when a rock came through the front of the windshield.

“I was in shock that someone would play with someone’s life like this,” he said.

“Glass just flew everywhere. We had a little swerve contest with the car in front of us — their windshield got hit also. We just pulled to the side and it was like 15, 20 cars lined up to the side all with damage.”

Motorists line up along westbound U.S. 35 May 26, 2018, just before the South Smithville Road exit after their vehicles were struck by rocks.(JAMES BUECHELE / STAFF)

Dayton police Lt. Chris Malson said there are no suspects, but plenty of victims.

“We got a report of multiple cars, approximately 18 of them, that were hit with rocks as they were driving westbound on U.S. 35 near Woodman (Drive),” he said. “All the calls came within about five minutes of each other.

The Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center said they received starting at 10 p.m. The last one received was at 10:29 p.m.

One of the victims was Susan Myers of Lima who was headed back home with her husband, riding in the front passenger seat.

“We heard a loud bang and looked up and saw the damage on the windshield,” she said. “We immediately pulled over and noticed that there were several cars ahead of us also pulled over with their hazard lights on.”

>> Troy bicyclist struck, killed identified

There are no reports of injuries, but Myers said they were shaken and now have to deal with broken glass inside the car and their insurance company.

Tony Gerardi of Xenia said he was driving home from visiting friends in Dayton when his car was struck.

“I hope police get them. I’m safe, thank God,” said Gerardi, “I don’t know why someone would do something like that.”

Earlier Saturday, around 4:45 p.m., another two motorists, one from Illinois and one from Dayton, reported their windshields were struck by rocks. At least one of the windshields shattered just when they went under a bridge. They told police the rocks appeared to come from the north side of the highway but were not able to see the culprits. Police officers found a pile of rocks laying on the side of the highway before the South Smithville Road exit, according to a Dayton police report.

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

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