BUTLER (KDKA) – An elementary school in Butler County is closed for two days after the water tested positive for lead.
Parents say the district allowed their children to continue drinking the water for months after the positive test results came back.
Now, those parents say they want the problem to fixed and they want answers.
Looking through the windows of Summit Elementary, multiple water containers and dispensers could be seen sitting on the floor. The superintendent said crews are currently installing portable sinks.
There were no students and staff to speak of since class was cancelled. Outside, Robert Sherrouse sat with his two kids in the car. He says his son, a second grader at Summit, just got his blood tested at the doctor.
“We won’t know nothing for a couple days,” parent Robert Sherrouse said.
Sherrouse was at Monday night’s school board meeting, alongside other parents who are outraged that they’re just learning that their children have been drinking water containing lead since last August, when the DEP detected levels above what’s allowed.
“The lives of those 300 children should’ve been put first,” one woman said.
“I’d like to know what I can tell my kids because they’re scared,” Aaron Geibel said.
“It’s hard for me to look at a Summit parent without being upset. If that’s my child, I’d be furious,” school board member Suzie Bradrick said.
Watch Christine D’Antonio’s report:
The mix-up happened in September, when results came back showing the lead levels in the water were elevated.
The maintenance supervisor contacted the DEP. A DEP official sent an email back to the supervisor on Sept. 27 stating the guidelines the district should have followed. But, the superintendent and school board said they never got the email — which can be read here — from the maintenance supervisor and were told all was fine.
Superintendent Dr. Dale Lumley said the maintenance supervisor, who acted as the district water operator, misunderstood the DEP and thought the water was safe.
“That is my fault that I put too much faith in him. I apologize profusely for that. Had I known that we had previous violations, I would’ve been more alert to it, but he never passed those on,” Dr. Lumley said.
The issue resurfaced last week after school board member Leland Clark took the matter in his own hands.
He said in a statement, which can be read in full here:
“Something about the whole situation did not feel right to me. I just had a feeling in my gut that we weren’t getting the truth. I kept the issue on my radar over the next month and a half, talking to a few people in the community and a couple people that worked at the school.”
Clark filed a Right to Know request on Dec. 6 and says he went back and forth with the DEP for a month and a half before all of the records were delivered on Jan. 17. He said he then contacted school board president Nina Teff, and they took everything to their solicitor the next day.
At the meeting, a lot of parents felt the superintendent should resign.
“When you have people that are supposed to report to you, I believe there’s a certain responsibility to ensure what they’re reporting to you in correct,” Bradrick said.
An engineering firm was hired to monitor lead levels and get further testing done. Until the lead is cleared from the water entirely, officials say students and staff will not be drinking the school’s water.
Lumley says bottled water will continue to be used, along with portable sinks.
KDKA’s Amy Wadas tried to find the maintenance supervisor to see if he had a statement, but he wasn’t home. He’s been suspended with pay.
Classes at Summit Township will resume on Thursday.