Water issue forces Raymond closure


Raymond Elementary School is closed today and district officials are working on a way to supply potable water to the building.

Marysville Superintendent Diane Mankins confirmed that Friday afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contacted Marysville Schools about the water supply at Raymond Elementary School. On Aug. 20 and Aug. 30, the EPA tested the water at the school. The tests revealed the building’s water system, “exceeded the USEPA Health Advisory Level (HAL) for antimony.”

According to an EPA notice, “antimony is a natural occurring element.”

EPA officials cited a World Health Organization statement that “antimony is not normally a raw water contaminant.”

“The most common source of antimony in drinking-water appears to be dissolution from metal plumbing and fittings,” according to the EPA advisory.

“Some people who drink water containing antimony well in excess of the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Levels) over many years could experience increases in blood cholesterol and decreases in blood sugar,” according to the EPA advisory.

District officials were told not to allow the students to ingest the water.

“You can’t cook with it and you can’t drink it,” Mankins said.

She said director of operations Ryan Walker has been working through the weekend on “how to get water up there.”

“We are getting supplies up there and we are meeting today, trying to determine what we are going to do, who is going to do what and how we are going to work these things out,” Mankins said.

Because district officials did not learn about the high test until the end of the day Friday, Mankins said she felt it would be unwise to rush a solution that could not be communicated to parents. Officials said they plan to return to school Tuesday. Students are welcome to bring water bottles to school.

“I felt like that would be rushing it, so I said, ‘Let’s step back. Let’s cancel school, get a good plan, that way on Tuesday it is business as usual,’” Mankins said.

Officials have said the detection of antimony is “rare and does not pose an immediate threat” but they wanted to close the school and cancel afterschool programming while they create a solution.

Officials have said the water is safe to be used for cleaning, washing hands or cleaning dishes.

The superintendent explained that all the water fountains in the building, even those in individual classrooms, were disabled. Additionally, she said the district will not be able to use the water in the kitchen.

A notice from the EPA advised, “Do not boil the water. Boiling, freezing or letting water stand does not reduce antimony levels.

She said because they do not know when the water might be safe again, officials want to find a sustainable solution.

“I wouldn’t say it will be all year, but I would say we believe we could potentially be in it quite a while,” Mankins said. “We do not believe this is short term — just a couple weeks.”

In addition to finding a solution, Mankins said officials are also looking for the problem.

“Today the EPA should be out there testing,” Mankins said, noting EPA officials could be on-site throughout the week collecting additional water samples and information.

She said antimony could be coming from the building’s well, the pipes or something else.

A notice from the EPA said testing did not find “detectable levels” of antimony in the district wells.

“I asked if they thought this could be a larger, community issue and she said based on the building water supply, she didn’t think so,” Mankins said.

Officials said they will communicate with parents and hold a parents’ meeting “when test results are complete and more information is available from the EPA.”

Parents with questions or wanting more information are being asked to call Raymond Elementary School Principal Carol Lentz at (937) 578-7200.

The EPA tests for antimony every three years.

“When they tested in 2016, there was nothing,” Mankins said. “It was just time to test again when the results came back high.”

She said once the water is safe to drink, the EPA will test quarterly for antimony.

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