Fountains, Faucets at 2 Waterbury Schools Shut Down After Lead Test Results

Fountains and faucets in two different Waterbury schools were shut down Wednesday after lead test results came back at levels higher than the federally allowed limit.

While the city is testing water systems in every school, three faucets at Wendell Cross Elementary School were over the limit and two fountains at Walsh Elementary were over the federally regulated limit of lead allowed in drinking water. The Wendell Cross faucets were in the nurses bathroom and the teachers’ lounge, areas that are not accessible to students.

Until a permanent solution can be found, teachers will be provided with bottled water. In some of the tainted faucets, staff have been instructed to let the water run before using it.

When looking for lead, there are two types of tests: One to measure the first water out of a fountain, or stagnant water, and another after the water runs for 60 seconds. In each tainted faucet or fountain, it was the stagnant water where lead was found.

A recorded message was sent out to parents across the school district after 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

“Let me stress that there is no issue with the quality of the water. The issue is with the pipe structure of the schools,” said the unidentified school employee in the message to parents.

“We want to reassure the public that there is no public health issue here,” said Waterbury interim Chief of Staff Robert Brenker. “Whenever people hear that four letter word, ‘lead’, they get scared and I understand that.”

Brenker said the faucets were shut down immediately after getting the test results on Tuesday afternoon. He said it was done out of an abundance of caution.

“The level that was found is significantly lower than anything that would cause an issue,” Brenker said.

The school district is testing every school and has results from about 80 percent of them, according to Brenker.

Parents outside Walsh Elementary wanted more information from the school.

"It is scary," said Ashanti Rivera, who has two young children attending Walsh. “You never want anything to happen to your kids and you know how dangerous lead poisoning can be.”

The tests came as a response to a 2016 NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation which reported that Waterbury had not tested school water in six years. School officials agreed to test schools in response to NBC Connecticut's requests.

Experts will come in and recommend to the city the best "next step" in find the source of the lead and cleaning it up.

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