Sep 21, 2020

Pennsylvania Schools Mitigate Legionella & Lead in Water

A Pennsylvania school district found legionella and high levels of lead in water.

lead in water

The South Butler County School District in Pennsylvania found legionella and high levels of lead in its water.

According to School Superintendent David Foley, tests found that five of 27 water fountains showed lead levels above acceptable limits, reported the Post-Gazette.

Testing found legionella bacteria in water tanks at the South Butler Primary School and the South Butler Intermediate Elementary School. Tests also showed one positive test at Knoch High School.

According to Foley in the letter sent to parents of the students, no one at any of the schools has reported any related illness. He added that none of the water fountains at the schools are in use due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mitigation measures to tackle both issues are underway, reported the Post-Gazzete.

A thermal shock procedure recommended by the school district’s water consultant, Intertek PSI, was used to heat school water tanks to 165 degrees or higher, which is hot enough to kill the legionella bacteria.

According to Jenny Webb, district media spokeswoman, the water from the tanks was retested recently and results will be in their hands soon. Until the results come in, hot water will be turned off in the affected schools. Instead, students will wash hands with soap and cold water and be provided with hand sanitizer.

The legionella bacteria likely grew as water sat stagnant during months of extended inactivity after schools closed due to COVID-19.

The district received a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Safety Grant which was used to order 45 new water cooler fountains and bottle filling stations to replace older fountains throughout the district. Before installation, the district plans to flush the school water systems and retest the water for lead.

Lead levels at the five water fountains range from 32.4 to 149 ug/L, while the U.S. EPA’s action level for lead in drinking water is 15 ug/L.

Read related content about Legionnaires' disease: