Harford County Public Schools is providing bottled water for drinking and to prepare cafeteria food at Forest Hill Elementary School in response to Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) contamination found during routine tests of the well water supplied to the school.
In a letter dated April 17, 2009, Principal Belinda Cole said a “minimal concentration” of the gasoline additive was found on school property and assured parents that the levels found in the water are “still well below the large margin of safety prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” The letter also said the switch to bottled water and other precautions were “to protect our students and staff from any adverse odor or taste from the water.” Forest Hill Elementary School does not have access to public water service.
Here’s a copy of the letter:
Harford County Council President Billy Boniface linked the incident at Forest Hill to the dispute over Red Pump and Campus Hills Elementary Schools at a meeting Tuesday.
The Harford County Council and the Harford County Board of Education are currently deadlocked in a debate over whether to build a new elementary school at Campus Hills or Red Pump to relieve overcrowding in the greater Bel Air area. The council supports Red Pump, which is located inside the development envelope and would therefore have access to public water. The school board supports Campus Hills, which like Forest Hill, is located outside the development envelope, meaning it would be supplied by well water. Campus Hills is also planned near a former gas station and a site where MTBE had been found, although not recently and not at actionable levels.
Noting the problem at Forest Hill, Boniface said Harford County Public Schools had responded effectively to the trace amount of MTBE found on school property, which he said had wells with an “extensive filtration system”, but that “no system is 100%”. Without mentioning Campus Hills or Red Pump by name, but clearly referencing the controversy, Boniface added “if we have the option to build a school on public water or not, it only solidifies which one of those decisions I would make.”
FRUSTRATION!!!!!! Question….Who at the school board, or who did they hire to do the ground testing in support of Campus Hills? This looks so bad…while we are trying to get schools built, come to find out Forest Hill ground test just open another can of worms. I am more then sure 2 schools are needed no matter what, but to waste money debating this stuff is outrageous. to waste money of crappy test is outrageous. I don’t care what the EPA says about the level of MTBE found. Gas is not in my child’s normal diet. They take away pizza and candy as a reward to the kids but feed a whole elementary school gas instead????? Who every did the testing for BOE when Campus Hill was up for debate as a school that should be built should really think about a career change. And I admit , I stuck by BOE with building Campus Hill trusting that they did their homework mean while Forest Hill Elementary School his drinking out of bottle water (but not to worry because EPA states it is a very low level) WHATEVER!!! I don’t put a drop of gas in my kids water, or food. I want MTBE to be at zero level. I want my kids to drink public water. Yes I know BOE is not at total fault; the council can pick up much of the blame too, but for BOE just stand by something like this and have Forest Hill Elementary School go through this is very sad. I am really curious to know who is the engineers at BOE that are doing the testing…mean while Forest Hill Elementary School just been added in the mix of crap. POOR KIDS! as a parent this drives me CRAZY!!! I am becoming a very angry Father, I naturally protect my kids, it is a God gift, that is what parents do. this crap harms my kids and the kids my kids play and grow with. and BOE and the council are harming these kids in so many ways!!! I could have a freaking heart attack right now over this stuff, this is like someone slapping my child in the face right in front of me.
Just curious — doesn’t Forest Hill ES now have a filtration system to combat the possible MTBE in the well water? The letter doesn’t specify whether the trace levels detected were directly from the well water before filtration, or after the filtration process of the well water.
The letter doesn’t say anything as it seems to be blank. Last night it was a copy of the article with the word insert
Big D says
MTBE was detected in the finished water at an estimated concentration below the 1 ppb instrument detection limit at the sampling point representing the point of distribution just after filtration (not point of use – being a sink tap or the like). Confirmation samples are to be run. The first post is a major overreaction. I’ll probably offend some folks by putting it into perspective, but a child would be exposed to more ‘gas’ sitting in a running car breathing or when you are filling up. Honestly, air quality is a much larger issue/concern than this particular case.
where are you getting this info Big D?
and this means “nothing”; the air quality is an much bigger issue, why even make a statement to the public about it? if air quality is so danger compared to this situation…waste time writing the letter about the water… since the air quality is much more dangerous why not face mask instead of water bottles?
You know what, I am getting really tired of people telling me I am over reacting when it comes to my kids. If we were talking about anything else besides besides kids, then I might be able to ride the boat of I don’t care. But when it comes to kids, their health, and growth, there is no such thing as overreacting. That is the problem with BOE. I mean seriously…anyone that has kids; would you be ok with your kids drinking this water, at tap or not and it contained w/1ppb of gas in it? I wouldn’t drink that why would I harm my kids with it.
Big D says
Outsider, I don’t mean air quality at the school. I mean air quality in general. The concentration reported in water is estimated in the parts per trillion range. (You can’t quantify zero analytically…you can only approach zero even when it is zero.) The analytical method for drinking water can only reliably tell you the concentration to 1 ppb with any level of acceptable accuracy. Anything below that is estimated (it might approach zero, it might be 999 parts per trillion).
As far as writing the letter…it is simply a public right-to-know effort on the school’s part. There was a detected breakthrough, the public has every right to know that fact. However, It does not automatically mean that there is a threat to public health as a result. The school is going way above and beyond by providing bottled water. They are really only doing it as a public relations measure to calm concerned parents that may not really understand the data.
ok last question, where is the test showing it is only 1ppb? where are you getting this info on the measurements? i didn’t see that in the letter…
Is there a link to the actual report of the measurements somewhere showing test data? Does the board of Ed have it on their site?
When I am wrong I am wrong…over reaction noted. I just hope next time test come out negative (hope to God they don’t) that Ms. Skebeck or reps come out with a much more detailed letter. Not everyone in the county truly understands what ppb, not everyone are engineers. The only thing a parent can really understand is that there is gas in water, and like a normal parents, we begin to “overreact”. Detail are important when it comes to parents and their kids.
I am still interested in your source Big D, please help with your finding.
Here is a good flier 20-40 micrograms per liter is the same thing as 20-40 ppb. MD has an acceptabel standard of 20 ppb. so as the letter says if it is below that number is simply detected. in retrospect there is more bleach in public water (1 ppm) or in a pool (3-8 ppm). I understand what you mean about how the average non-chemist parent sees MTBE and drinking water and flips; but in all fairness did you try to contact either of the two individuals whom the letter suggested you call to get more information? That is what they are there for.
Big D says
You can contact the county health department or the Maryland Department of the Environment…and those agencies are my sources. They will publicly disclose the measurement as 0.6J ppb (or 600J parts per trillion…J meaning estimated). They should also tell you that the sample port is being re-tested for confirmation.
I understand your reaction, Outsider. If I did not have extensive experience with reading chemical groundwater data and human health risk assessment, I would likely have had the same reaction. I only responded here to try to put some of these issues into perspective. I still worry about my children breathing air in the 10th worst county nationwide for air quality. That’s my major environmental concern in Harford County…that’s not to downplay groundwater contamination, whether is be gasoline, perchlorate, or some other potenially hazardous chemical.
Forest Hill Elementary has gotten the all clear once again on Friday. Yes once again. The filtration system that they installed has not worked way to many times!
They check the system and levels each month but who is to say that it doesn’t break two days after being checked. The kids are now drinking and eating off of
contaminated stuff until they check it the following month. The worst part is that there is public water lines approximately 1500 ft away that the can tap into. Their
excuse is that the county does not want to open up the development enveloped where other companies and builders will want to tap into the line. Dumbest thing I have ever heard. How about a county exception to the rule for a county owned building!!! I guess the BOE doesn’t have kids that are at risk for drinking a CANCER causing agent!!!
Mom (Liz) if you knew where the county gets its water from you would not be too excited about that! I would rather have my well water then water that the govrement tinkers with and is pumped from wells at APG (how much crap is in the ground there?)
The water at that school is checked every month, I bet that’s not the case in all schools, in addition there is a filtration system that I bet gets more than MTBE out ie framing chemicals etc. Running water up there means a new water tower has to be built and once that’s in here come the townhouses and condos. Your kids may someday get cancer (I hope not) but it won’t be from their elmentary schools water.
Why’d the school send out a new letter restating the obvious? We all know the groundwater IS contaminated. That’s why the school has a big, top-notch, carbon filtration system to remove MTBE – as well as other gasoline components like benzene that might show up in the future. Why didn’t the letter say whether there was anything was in the water the kids were drinking? The tests are undoubtedly done all at the same time, so why didn’t they immediately tell parents (and school officials?) what really mattered: are our kids safe???
Almost exactly 1 year ago (May 1, 2008), the school’s groundwater (i.e. the water brought up from underground) had 182 ug/L of MTBE. Very high. But after just the first of two filters, no MTBE was found (not detectable or “ND”). But the water still went through the second filter and retested (still nothing there, no surprise). I’ll bet that’s exactly what happened this time too. Again — so why the letter? Why scare the kids and their parents unnecessarily when there WAS NO PROBLEM? That’s why the school “got the all clear” so fast, someone already knew it was OK.
Something smells, and it isn’t the water.
Kids drink a lot more water at home than they do in school. So here’s a useful website to learn what might be in the groundwater near your home: http://www.mde.state.md.us/programs/landprograms/oil_control/remediationsites/index.asp
I’m disappointed that recent results for FHES aren’t posted. Maybe parents could pressure the Health Department and/or MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) to keep the info updated.
There are areas of contaminated groundwater all over Harford County. All of us with wells need to remember that contamination can really damage our health even when you can’t taste, smell or see it. We well owners are responsible for our own water, so we need to AT LEAST be told where the groundwater is known to be contaminated. Then if we live nearby, we can pay to get our wells tested. The tests are expensive, but our kids’ health is worth it!
Now that the point has been raised, this line in the letter is unclear: “A recent water test detected the presence of MTBE;…”
Was it a ground water test or a test of filtered water coming into the school? I’m checking now.
Big D says
Not sure if anyone saw it, but the consumer confidence report for the Harford County Public Water Distribution System was published in The Aegis yesterday. TCE was detected in at least one sample at 0.7ppb. Where is the public outrage? Are kids not drinking this water too? TCE is a known carcinogen/mutagen, MTBE is a possible carcinogen. TCE is more toxic than MTBE…and some wanted public water at the school!
…before anyone gets too worked up about it…0.7ppb TCE is a non-issue (just like the 0.6ppb MTBE at FHES). These types of man-made contributed contaminants show up from time to time in just about every public water system in the country and are deemed safe at these low levels by health authorities for human consumption.
Interesting how politics works, isn’t it?
I think it is all crap; i am soooo confused, what a man is suppose to do in situations like this? I can get mad and pumped about how all this is being dwelt with. i am tired!!! i can’t ask anyone to care about my child like they want me to care about theirs. personally, it is very upsetting. it sucks God gave us all hearts to love but we say things like 0.6 MTBE or .7 ppb for TCE; what ever that is. one minuted i feel like ripping a hole in my house over this stuff and the next i feel like i am going over board because no one really seams to give a crap. it is just confusing. if my child is harmed by any of this crap, it is not going to be pretty i would like to nip all this harmful crap to my kids before it is too late. if you don’t have kids, well i wouldnt expect you to understand, but God has given me the will to protected them at all cost. i hope the new SE can understand and believe in those words with all his heart.
Outsider rememebr we learn things (as a global society) all the time. We did not know smoking during pregnancey was bad at one time. Kids grew up. Lead based paint cribs with space in between the slats was bad; but kids grew up. Seat belt and car seat rugulations; but kids grew up. You can worry yourself to death or just stay educated and deal with it.