Drinking water is supposed to be clear, but the Central Heights school district’s water supply inside its school, 2521 Ellis Road, has a blue tint to it, which alerted officials last week to a possible problem.
Brian Spencer, Central Heights superintendent, said they discovered copper levels were too high, which led to school being canceled for three days last week. He said the water did not have an odor.
School returned to session Monday, but the water was not fit for consumption yet.
“We will provide bottled water for drinking and consumption,” Spencer posted on the Central Heights school district’s Facebook page. “Students don’t need to bring their own bottles of water, but they may if they want.
“Copper is on the list of secondary drinking water contaminants. It is not a toxic contaminant, but it can cause gastrointestinal problems. Additional testing has ruled out any other contamination and confirmed that we are dealing with a corrosion issue which is impacting the copper waterlines.”
Spencer indicated the three days missed last week will not have to be made up and the district’s calendar will not be disrupted.
The superintendent said the problem lies within the school building as the water from the rural water district has been tested and the copper levels were within the guidelines. He said the water will continue to be tested after the system is flushed.
“We are working diligently with several agencies and experts,” he posted on the Facebook page. “The levels are declining but remain elevated. We do feel that we are making progress on the solution but remain cautious. We have taken action to mitigate the copper levels in the water. These actions have led to good testing results, but we must continue to monitor and assess the situation.”
Central Heights has been in contact with Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Spencer said.
Spencer said this situation baffled the experts.
“They have all said the same thing, ‘We have never seen anything like this before,’” Spencer said. “It has been frustrating.”
Spencer said Monday morning KDHE officials were working diligently to find the cause of the problem and to provide information to get it fixed.
“We will continue to flush the system and search for the source of the elevated copper levels,” he said.
Spencer said the school building has been unoccupied since learning of the problem to help with the testing process. He said samples sent for testing need to be collected eight hours after being flushed.
“We also have to test several locations and any activity in the system anywhere can invalidate the testing process,” Spencer said.
He said during the two-week winter break, the heating system broke down, which caused the water pipes to freeze. Spencer said once the heating and frozen pipes were fixed, they noticed the blue water. He said they had the water tested for lead, which came back negative.
Spencer said he will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.