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Remediation starts on Birmingham schools water

By Lisa Brody


Remediation work has begun at several Birmingham Public Schools after water testing showed not only high lead and copper levels at several schools, but also the presence of legionella, and school officials have asked students to bring water bottles from home when attending in-person until the water systems are fixed.


Birmingham Schools had water testing conducted by Trace Analytical in late November and early December. High lead and copper levels were found at Groves and Seaholm high schools, Derby and Berkshire middle schools, Birmingham Covington School, and Harlan, Quarton, Beverly and West Maple elementary schools.


Retesting and remediation is continuing at all of the affected schools, district communications indicated.


For students who will be attending in-person instruction, the district said they will “will shift to cold water flushes to eliminate copper and lead in the system in the coming weeks. All individuals should use water from home or bottled water until water filter stations are enabled again. Hand washing can occur during this time. We will provide an update when our building is cleared for regular water usage. Once remediation is complete and our water bottle filter stations can be turned back on, this is the recommended water source for drinking water as they are designed to filter out lead.”


Testing showed there were multiple lead and copper results throughout the building at Seaholm, administrators said, as well as legionella found in the building. Groves had trace levels of lead and copper, as well as legionella discovered. At Derby, the building showed four lead results and five copper results, as well as legionella. Berkshire had no elevated levels of lead or copper, but legionella was found in the building. No elevated lead or copper was found at BCS either, but legionella was found in the building.


Legionella was not found in the building at Greenfield, but test results showed one lead result and two copper results in non-drinking water sources, which principal Noelle Davis said had been shut down and were not available for use.


At Quarton, test results showed four lead results and five copper results, as well as legionella was found in the building.


At Harlan, test results showed there were eight locations with high lead results and two locations with copper results that are higher than maximum contamination limits, and legionella was found in the building.


At Beverly, tests results showed there were four elevated lead results and six high copper results. Legionella was also found in the building.


Reports from West Maple stated they are still waiting for lead and copper testing results, but that legionella was found in the building.


According to the Michigan Lead and Copper Rule, safe levels of lead in water are being reduced from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 12 ppb by January 1, 2025, and 1.3 mg per liter for copper.


Legionella bacteria can cause a serious type of pneumonia called Legionnaires' Disease, according to the CDC, as well as a less serious disease called Pontiac's Fever, which is a milder form of Legionnaires' Disease, and, more rarely, extrapulmonary infections, collectively known as legionellosis. People can get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac Fever when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain legionella.

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