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Water issues continue to plague schools



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March 13, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Paul Haggerty was more than a little surprised to learn that his sons were unable to drink from the water fountains at their schools.

"It's shocking that it's not safe to drink from the fountains at Harvey Swanson (Elementary) and also at Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School," said the father of Chase and Dylan during a school board budget work-shop meeting March 4. "I am stunned with the bond (passed by voters in 2006) that this is the situation with the water."

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon acknowledged that arsenic levels at Harvey Swanson were too high and a major water treatment was conducted at the school during Christmas break. A similar water treatment was conducted at Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School and was expected to be completed this week.

The water treatments, which include installation of new "media" inside the tank of each filter unit, cost about $13,000 each depending on the size of the building and are expected to last for 10 years.

In 2006, the district approved the installation of filtration systems on school drinking water supplies by Sunshine Water Systems of Linden at a cost of $135,000. The system filters out arsenic at the point of entry—with large tanks filtering water near the point at which pipes enter a structure's walls. Prior to the installation of the system, five of the six school buildings in the district exceeded arsenic limits.

Arden Becker, district executive director for operations, aquatic center and food services, said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality conducts arsenic tests as well as several other tests of the water, monthly and/or quarterly. The district pays for these mandated tests.

Over the years, there have been water issues of one kind or another at five of the six district buildings. Until these issues are resolved (with levels of various substances considered to be in the "normal" range) Becker and the maintenance crew will bring untainted water from another building.

"We have a water cooler next to each fountain and cups are provided for the kids to drink whenever they want," he said. "It happens quite a bit. Unfortunately, this is not a new scenario. We refill as needed, checking every morning and throughout the day."

Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance in the water, and this area has abnormally high levels of arsenic, McMahon said.

"The problem is chronic in our area," she said. "Every homeowner should be paying attention and checking their wells."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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