Bioenvironmental helps improve water in KMC schools

by Staff Sgt. Leslie Keopka 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Department of Defense Education Activity Europe recently released the test results for drinking water fountains and sinks in the KMC school facilities.

The 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering office assisted the schools by conducting the required testing on more than 1,100 sinks and water fountains. The results indicated 26 fountains and 304 sinks with the potential to introduce lead into the water.

“We sampled every faucet and potential water source in each of the schools to test for lead coming from the faucets,” said Lt. Col. Scott McDonald, 86th AMDS Bioenvironmental Engineering flight commander. “Now that we have isolated the few problem areas, we are going to further investigate the causes and determine the best mitigation actions to keep the amount of lead leaching from the pipes as low as possible. This may include completely removing pipes and fixtures, if necessary.

“The sampling we did was the worst case scenario, meaning we intentionally tested in the summer when water is most susceptible to the leaching,” McDonald continued. “We sampled in July so the water had been stagnant for almost two months with school being out. We flushed the system prior to testing and let the water sit for eight hours overnight. The results we received were from that.”

Exposure to lead is primarily a risk for children under 6 years of age and pregnant women. If school-aged children were potentially exposed to lead, medical authorities have determined the exposure would not be significant enough to cause adverse health effects.

However, as a precaution, water to the affected fountains has been shut off, and the schools have implemented a flushing program to remove stagnant water from school faucets. Similar testing has been accomplished in housing and child care facilities; these results all met standards.

“We are committed to the health and safety of our staff and students,” said Frank Simone, Department of Defense Dependents Schools Kaiserslautern District acting superintendent. “That is why DODDS is working with the experts in the military community to minimize the potential of lead content in our water supply and to determine what options are available for mitigating any potential (issues).”

The reassessment that will be conducted over the next several weeks will either validate the summer results or show that daily use of the water stops the potential for lead to build up.

“The follow-on sampling will be finished within the next several weeks, so we can get word out to the parents that all the summer results are reduced and all the mitigation measures we are taking are appropriate,” McDonald said. “We are continuously looking at ways to improve the overall quality of the water in the schools.”

For good water-using practices, individuals are encouraged to refrain from using hot water straight from the faucet, boil cold water and let their faucets run for 10 to 15 seconds prior to using the water. Flushing faucets for several seconds prior to filling a cup or dish ensures stagnant water is not used and fresh flowing water will follow.

This situation is a low risk to our children, but if there are concerns, parents are encouraged to first speak to their child’s teachers to learn more about their child’s daily water-drinking routine at school and if their classroom’s sink or faucet was identified as having elevated results, McDonald said.

For those with health concerns, contact the 86th Medical Group Nurse Helpline at 479-2273. With specific questions regarding the water testing, call the 86th AMDS Bioenvironmental Engineering office at 479-2220.