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Springfield Republican Reports (The only thing I wish the reporter included was the clearly established scientific facts regarding water temperature and scalding and at 110 it would be near impossible to scald hands in a lavatory setting)
ORIGINAL POST (Thursday early afternoon)
So the venerable crusty Gazette editors did not even deem this (Only In Amherst) school safety issue important enough to reprint in this week’s ultra-crusty Amherst Bulletin. Probably a good thing. Maybe journalistic integrity strikes them every now and then--like the dead clock that’s correct twice a day.
Here’s my reaction:
I’m disappointed—but not surprised—at the cold water (board) torture I received in the Gazette after they, finally, got around to covering the lack of hot water in the Wildwood Elementary School bathrooms.
First off, uncorroborated allegation that I left a “broken shard” in the boy’s room. The entire thermometer is made of “high impact resin” (both the tubular part containing the non-mercury red dye and the plastic backing it is housed in). I took one apart and dropped the tubular section three times from a height of five feet and it did not break.
Then I whacked it with a hammer, and the two pieces were far from sharp.
So yes, something very small was accidentally left behind (after searching I assumed it went down the drain) but it was completely harmless. Use of the word “shard” gives the impression it was one of those Viet Cong punji stick booby traps waiting to impale some innocent child--although I assume kids wear shoes in the lavatory.
The lead paragraph also suggests the Health Department checked “boys and girls rooms at Wildwood Elementary School,” when in fact the report clearly shows only one Boy’s room was checked and the temperature came back at 86.7 degrees. Certainly not” hot.”
And school officials did have over 24 hours notice the Health Department was coming so I’m sure they did everything possible to increase the water temperature in that Boy’s room (my findings were 70 degrees one time and 78 the next), and 86.7 was the best they could do?
The “No Trespass” order came after my third and last visit (a full month after accidentally leaving behind a harmless thermometer). I adhered to Superintends Sprague’s telephone demand from the previous visit and announced myself at the Main Office. I was accompanied to the rest room by Principal Matt Behnke and we both made sure no children were present.
He was with me the entire time but, yes, when he asked me not to take a photo of the thermometer readout I declined and took one photo. So I guess the 'Trespass Order' was for insubordination.
The Gazette article extensively quotes Facilities Director Ronald Bohonowitcz claiming the water is kept low to prevent “scalding”. Hmmm. A google search shows the following for scalding to occur:
Temperature Time to Cause
of Water a Bad Burn
150°F (66°C) 2 seconds
140°F (60°C) 6 seconds
125°F (52°C) 2 minutes
120°F (49°C) 10 minutes
Notice they don’t even go below 120 because most people—especially children—do not spend that much time washing their hands. And since the jump from 125 down to 120 was pretty dramatic I would guess at 80-95 degrees it would take the entire school day.
And yes, I’m amazed the state has “no minimum” temperature required for rest rooms--meaning we could shut off entirely the hot water. And if Mr. Bohonowicz is correct that the state does mandate a maximum temperature of 110, then he needs to look at the bathrooms in Town Hall and the Bangs Center that I tested yesterday at over 120.
After smashing with a hammer
After complaint, Amherst school water found to be OK
By MARY CAREY
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
AMHERST - Town health officials found no problem with the water temperature in the boys and girls rooms at Wildwood Elementary School, after investigating an Amherst resident's complaint.
The temperature of the water is in conformance with the state plumbing code for public buildings, Ron Bohonowicz, facilities manager for the town and schools, said Monday.
"There is no legal issue there," he said.
Bohonowicz said the temperature in the restrooms is set between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so that children don't scald their hands. The water in the boiler is set at 160 degrees, but it is mixed with colder water before it reaches the restrooms, Bohonowicz said.
"When one of these little kids comes in from the outside and their hands are freezing, they can't tell how hot the water is. We don't want to take any risk whatsoever of burning a child."
Amherst resident Larry Kelley had taken the temperature of the water in the boys room and posted on his blog the opinion that it was too cold and posed a health risk.
He has since received a no-trespassing order requiring him to stay out of the schools, after he left a broken shard of a non-mercury thermometer behind in the restroom while conducting one of his own investigations.
Kitchen water temperature higher
Water used in the kitchen, meanwhile, is set at higher temperatures and the temperature in the dishwashers is even higher, because they are equipped with temperature boosters.
State building code says that water temperature in public buildings should be set at a maximum of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
It does not specify a minimum temperature.
As it takes some time for the water from the boiler to reach the restrooms, the water that initially comes out of the faucets may sometimes be colder than the desired temperature, Bohonowicz added.
"Our schools are old. The systems are not designed the way today's nice new efficient systems are."
Co-superintendent Alton Sprague said that boiler replacement for the district's schools - which would run to the millions of dollars - has been on a wish list for school maintenance.
The maintenance has been deferred by the School Building Authority, a state entity, Sprague said.
Kelley had filed a written complaint about the temperature of the water with Epi Bodhi, Amherst's health director. She could not be reached for comment.