Schools closed due to mercury in water

May 25, 2018

A science experiment by a Rochester Hills school teacher that resulted in the discovery of high levels of mercury led school officials on Tuesday, May 22 to cancel classes at two schools in the Rochester Community Schools District.

Van Hoosen Middle School, 1339 Adams Rd., and Rochester Adams High School, 3200 W. Tienken Rd., were closed due to water quality concerns.

Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner said in a Monday, May 21 statement to parents that the district received an email that morning from an Arizona State University laboratory manager about water sampling done by a teacher during a science experiment that showed significantly high mercury levels in the water.

"Although the tests were not conducted by certified personnel or sent to a certified lab for testing water, we still take these concerns very seriously," Shaner said. "Since the water source feeds both Van Hoosen Middle School and Rochester Adams High School, drinking water sources at those schools were immediately disabled and the students were dismissed early."

The report from Arizona State University indicated that a Van Hoosen Middle School science room faucet has mercury levels significantly higher than the maximum contaminant level published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Three samples were tested: one from Van Hoosen Middle School, one from Paint Creek and one from Sargent Creek. The average sampling was .056 mg/l or 56 parts per billion (ppb). The EPA maximum contaminant level for mercury is .002  mg/L or 2 ppb.

"In order to provide due diligence in evaluating the concerns, we immediately engaged the city of Rochester Hills, the Oakland County Health Department and an independent environmental consulting firm, Nova Environmental," Shaner said. "To confirm the water quality, the city of Rochester Hills Department of Public Works is performing water sampling at both schools and will be forwarding the samples to a certified lab for testing."

Results from eight water samples taken at Van Hoosen Middle School and Rochester Adams High School were released late Tuesday afternoon. All of the samples came back "non-detect" for mercury, meaning the certified lab wasn't able to detect mercury in the water, and it was deemed safe for consumption. The highest results for mercury were recorded at .0002 mg/L, well below the state standard.

The samples were tested by Paragon Laboratories, which is certified by the state as a drinking water test facility.

Following the results of the tests, the district re-opened both schools for regularly scheduled classes on Wednesday, May 23.

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