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Concentrations of lead in sinks and a water fountain at Clara Hearne Pre-K Center have prompted the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District to trace the source of the contamination, consider replacing piping from the street to the building as well as internal plumbing.

The school system is also trying to determine if the contamination was within the plumbing infrastructure of the school or elsewhere, district spokesman Les Atkins said this afternoon.

The school was built in 1950 and converted for use as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten center in 1999.

In a statement the school system said it is being proactive after a state report indicated higher than normal levels of lead in several sinks and one water fountain.

The levels of lead are measured in parts per billion, according to the report, which can be viewed at this link

The largest concentration of lead was in a hand-washing sink — 929.40 parts per billion — in classroom 102 while an art sink in classroom 102 tested at 209.13 parts billion. An art sink in classroom 110 tested at 51.88 parts per billion.

According to the report, the lead concentration in water shows the result from the tap that was measured in the sample the center collected. 

If the measured result is at or above 15 parts per billion the local or state health official will collect a confirmation first draw and confirmation 30-second flush sample. 

If the state confirmation samples measured at the State Laboratory of Public Health are also at or above 15 parts per billion, remediation is required by the center. 

One art sink at the school measured at 18.55 parts per billion while a handwashing sink measured at 15.82.

There was an art sink which measured at 18.02 and a hallway water fountain which measured at 16.17.

If the state confirmation samples are below 15, remediation of the tap is not required by the state and there will be no additional on-site visits. “However, we strongly recommend remediation of taps with lead at or above 5 parts per billion, and we recommend remediation of taps with lead at or above 1 parts per billion as there is no safe level of lead exposure for children,” the report said.

After remediation of a tap that is at or above 15, an official will return to collect remediation samples to ensure that the remediation is effective in reducing or eliminating lead in water. The state will conduct remediation first draw and remediation 30-second flush sampling to make sure remediation is effective.

Water fountains at the school have not been used since March of last year when the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed, the school system said.

The water tests were conducted in March as part of a new requirement from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.  

“The Roanoke Rapids Graded School District is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for our students,” Superintendent Dain Butler said. “Upon receiving the findings of our water collection, we have immediately closed down all water sources to the sinks that were noted in the report.  We want our families to know we’re doing everything we can as quickly as we can.” 

The district has brought in portable hand washing stations and water dispensers.

Water coming into the building is part of the public water supply provided by the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District. 

The district is working with local plumbing contractors to replace piping from the street.  

“Fortunately, with COVID-19 restrictions in place since last year, our water fountains have been cut off and students have been bringing their own water bottles to school,” center Coordinator Lindsey Goble said. “Additionally, many of the water-related activities that students typically participate in have also been suspended. Only our sinks have been used for handwashing.” 

Once the piping is replaced, the district plans to retest the water at Clara Hearne Pre-K Center and will notify families of the findings.  

“We take the health and safety of our students and staff very seriously and are committed to ensuring the water is completely safe,” Butler said.