CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Bottled water will continue to be used at a number of schools next week as flushing and testing efforts take place following the water emergency in parts of nine West Virginia counties.
The state is using a more stringent standard when it tests the schools for the chemical MCHM, and 77 of the 83 tested schools have met that 10 parts-per-billion standard. The schools that haven’t met the standard are well below the CDC safe standard for MCHM of 1 part-per-million.
“It is important for students, parents and educators to understand that the schools highlighted by the most recent round of testing were well below the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended level, but were not yet at the more stringent screening level that the interagency team was directed to achieve beyond the CDC guidelines,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares said in a statement.
The state said Saturday night further flushing and sampling had cleared George Washington High, John Adams Middle and Andrew Heights Elementary schools in Kanawha County, H.E. White Elementary in Clay County and Buffalo High in Putnam County.
Flushing was continuing at Lincoln County High School in Hamlin.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Friday said the state is continuing to work through the aftermath of the water emergency.
“We’ve got our scientists and the Bureau of Public Health. They’ve been working and testing and working with other labs around the country where the scientists are going back and forth,” Tomblin said.
It’s believed 20,000 gallons of MCHM and a smaller amount of the chemical PPH leaked into the Elk River from the Freedom Industries site in Charleston on Jan. 9. West Virginia American Water’s plant that services some 300,000 state residents is less than two miles downstream, and the leak contaminated the system prompting a do-not-use water order over the next week.
The Kanawha County School System released additional information about water use in its schools:
“Hand Sanitizer, bottled water and food preparation with bottled water is being used in each school until the schools have been cleared below 10 parts per billion. Kanawha County Schools will re-flush. Kanawha County Schools followed the proper protocol and guidelines for flushing each individual school to achieve the CDC recommended level of 1 part per million. This additional testing and work is to ensure a level 100 times below the CDC recommended level and a level CDC has deemed safe for all populations.
As an additional safety precaution, each school’s water was tested and samples were taken to ensure the water quality was at this additional standard. Out of the 69 schools that were tested, 59 water samples have returned and three schools were not yet at the lower threshold that the interagency team was directed to achieve beyond the CDC Guidelines. The rest of those schools results showed non-detect levels at the 10 parts per billion level. The three identified schools are Andrew Heights Elementary, John Adams Middle School and George Washington High School.
Kanawha County Schools continues to work with the local health department, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health and the National Guard to meet safe water standards. Additional flushing will begin this weekend and additional water samples will be taken to ensure water quality at the identified schools. As additional results come in from the remaining facilities, Kanawha County Schools will communicate with parents and the public. Our goal is the safety of all children.”