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.”