Sunday, August 28, 2016

Get The Lead Out!

Crocker Farm School, built 1974 but renovated 2002 to a total of 90,800 square feet

As if our public schools were not already in enough chaos with classes scheduled to start only days from now, Crocker Farm, our South Amherst neighborhood elementary school, tested positive for lead in the water.

When it rains it pours.

Click to enlarge/read

Note worst result came from a drinking water bubbler


Anonymous said...


This is the schools being proactive, leveraging state money and town staff to answer the question less that half the schools in the state are willing to ask. 5 fixtures out of 74 exceed the lead standard after sitting all night. All fixtures passed after a 30 sec flush. No fixtures had high copper levels. How many private homes, businesses or schools can tell you that and show you the numbers.

Anonymous said...

If its fixture is why It wasn't caught before now. If my kids were at Crocker I would be reviewing those lead tests from the Drs. Can this open the town up for liability if people can prove that their homes are lead compliant. Boy what a mess.

Nina Koch said...

Again you are using the word "chaos" to describe the environment inside of each school building. What evidence do you have to back up your use of that word? Are there swirls of books and paper scattered all over the classrooms? Are people running up and down the hall uttering random screams of panic? That's what your word implies.

I don't know if any of the principals would let you inside, but if you went in, you would see a bunch of adults working hard to get ready for the start of school. You'd see custodians making the floors shine and putting care into creating a safe, clean environment for kids. You might walk up to a 2nd grade teacher stapling a bulletin board and ask her what she hopes to accomplish with her class this year. She will probably be able to talk to you very cogently about her goals, what new things she is going to try, and what she will do on the first day of school to make all students feel welcome and included. She has spent a good deal of the summer reflecting on the previous year and thinking about the new year. Now she does have a lot to get done and she doesn't have much time to talk to you, but she is not in a state of chaos.

I hope you write a blog post on the evening of August 31 and tell us what happened at school for your kids. It won't be chaos.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Nina.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Crocker Farm supposed to be the early childhood, pre-kindergarden center as part of the $75 million dollar new school building project?

My understanding is that lead poisoning has a devastating impact on developing minds.

This issue raises the question if Crocker is really an appropriate site for an early childhood center IMO.

Larry Kelley said...

And we don't know yet about all the other schools.

Plus the town is in a water crisis, so flushing all the taps at Crocker Farm daily will certainly not help that situation any.

Rebecca Casa said...

Nina I think that when Larry refers to chaos he's just talking about the superintendent change the school committee situation the mess and Pelham the letter or from the lawyer and Maria demanding for money and threatening to Sue or school committee members. I definitely don't think he's talking about the inside of every building he's just saying that right now in general the administration end of our schools is not exactly functioning. I hope that Mike can keep the start of the school year come for our students. The situation at Crocker and possibly the other schools isn't a good way to start the school year off we're only a few days away from the start of school. I know our town loves our children and they will do their absolute best to fix the situation as quick as possible.

Anonymous said...

Like the man said.....CHAOS!

Peter said...

Regarding 'chaos', let me get this straight:
1. The school system decided this summer to proactively test the water at Crocker Farm for lead and copper, despite no evidence of any problems. (Half of the other school districts in MA apparently decided not to test - I am not sure whether this is because they have recently done testing on their own, or they just didn't want to)
2. When it turned out that 4 of the taps had higher than acceptable lead levels, they took those taps out of service, came up with a plan to get those kids water, planned further testing to investigate the source of the lead issue, and took precautions to make sure that the other schools in the district were not exposed unnecessarily to lead until they could be properly tested.
3. Within 24 hours of receiving those results, they had sent out a notification to all families in the school system, even those not attending Crocker Farm, to let them know that there was a potential issue, and alerting them to the steps they were taking to address the issue.
This seems like an administration that is trying to proactively get ahead of an issue, address it, and communicate with the public. Despite all of the other chaos facing the district right now (and I would concur that the Superintendent and school committee and multiple other issues could be fairly described that way) it really seems that the administration is taking a methodical and appropriate response here.
This is a far cry from places such as Flint or even Granby, where elevated water lead tests were met with limited or suppressed information.
Larry, I appreciate your getting Amherst related news out to the community in a timely fashion, but it would be great if instead of fanning this into a crisis with a one line 'Crocker Farm has lead in the water!', you could bring more information -- what does the Dept of Public Health say? How big of an issue is this really? Why did only half of the other communities in MA test their water? There is a lot more to this issue than a 'Sky-is-falling' headline.

Anonymous said...

On the chaos front, Nina, if you read the BOLDAmherst facebook page, you would think that Fort River and Wildwood Schools have unhealthy, sick air, are filled with mold, noise and dysfunctional classrooms where learning is almost impossible. How could anyone read the FB page and website and enroll their kid into either school? We need a realistic picture.

Anonymous said...

Ed, your strident positions are not only completely over the top, but all the more bizarre in that you don't actually live in our community, or even our state.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Peter...plenty of real chaos to concentrate on.

Dr. Ed said...

,Ed, your strident positions are not only completely over the top, but all the more bizarre in that you don't actually live in our community, or even our state.

Someone a tad paranoid?

Dr. Ed said...


The difference between me and Appy is that I have ethics and henceneed to say this"

Parents: Do NOT worry about this! The water in your own home is probably worse, and the issue is the couple of gallons of water that was in the pipes overnifgt -- once you have run the cold water untilit gets cold, that water is gone.

The proble, is one of two things -- either lead soder used to join copper pipes together or (more likely) Lead is leaching out of the Brass fittings (most likely the faucets). While Brass is a mixture of Copper & Tin, high-quality Brass also contained up to 2% Lead.

Well when the water remains in contact with the Lead overnight, a trace amount leaches out into the stagnant water. But once that water's gone, there's no problem and that's what the test data showed.

As an aside, Appy's wine likely will have a higher lead level than this -- fancy glassware is 24%-28% Lead Oxide, wine's acidic, and trace amounts of Lead will inevitablt leach out into the wine.

I know the parents don't trust the school system, with good reason, but Iam saying this -- don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, well if you're saying it, Ed, then everything must be ok. Thanks for the reassurance, old buddy.

Tom Porter said...

Not that it matters, but 1974 is incorrect. I attended fourth grade at Crocker Farm in 1967-68 and recall a "1966" cornerstone at the front of the building. We should be organizing a 50th Anniversary Gala and digging up that time capsule in the cornerstone soon....

Nina Koch said...


My point is that Larry is taking the conflict in one area and trying to leverage that to describe the entire school system. He didn't say that the relationship between the administration and the School Committee is in chaos. He said very globally that our public schools are in chaos.

This posting is a good example of just how irresponsible Larry can be. Last night I took the time to read the actual letter about the water issue. He knows most people will skip reading the letter. So they just take his interpretation and that's what gets lodged in their minds as information. It's actually disinformation. What I got from the letter is that a few of the taps needed to be flushed and then they tested fine. Well, isn't that what most of us do in our houses? First thing in the morning, you let the tap run for a minute to flush out the lead. Unless you have newer construction with plastic pipes, any plumber who comes to your house will tell you to do that.

So in this case, Larry is completely full of it. In typical fashion, he is distorting a situation and trying to make things look far worse than they actually are. I would urge anyone who feels concerned about the water to just read the text of the letter.

Larry Kelley said...

Kind of funny that the less I write the more controversy it seems to generate. This post was all of two paragraphs while the letter from the town I published IN FULL is eight paragraphs.

If people can't take the time to read an eight paragraphs (although you Nina made is sound like it was a chore) that's not my problem.

Peter said...

Rather than being kind of funny, Larry, I think you've actually hit on a reason why people find some of your posts controversial. I also think that as a blogger/journalist, it actually is your problem. You have taken on the role of someone who is covering the news and getting it out there. With this role comes the responsibility to help interpret that news. If you had simply written - 'The school administration released some information about lead at Crocker Farm - you should read this' that would have generated less controversy and provided the information. It wouldn't have summarized the news or made it more click-worthy, but it would be neutral and out there. Your two paragraphs (paraphrasing-'The schools are in chaos, and now there is lead in the water!') gave color and slant to the released information that I don't think was entirely accurate.

The people whom this affects - parents of children in the school system - they read the whole letter. People who aren't directly affected by the water in the school system aren't going to read the whole letter, and thus their takeaway is the two paragraph color that you provide, contributing to the perception of chaos in the school system. And that becomes a problem (your problem, my problem) since it affects the whole community.

Again - I think you have some evidence of some issues elsewhere in the school system that need to be addressed. It just seems to me that in this situation, the administration is doing an appropriate job of responding to a situation. If you're going to provide two paragraphs of context, it should be fair and accurate, otherwise I'd prefer the releases just published as they are.

Anonymous said...

Ed are you available to plumbing work at my house? Also I am sure you can do some rewiring and give me a complete physical and .......

Larry Kelley said...

Peter: Feel free not to read my commentary as I put up WAY more public documents in their entirety than all other local media outlets combined.

And to those who are put off by the comments section, they should feel free not to read the comments.

Peter said...

Larry -- I agree. You do a great job of putting up documents and shining light on local news stories that would not otherwise be covered. And I do often appreciate your insight and commentary on those topics. I think this blog serves an important purpose, and I don't intend to stop reading simply because I disagree with your points or opinions. My sole point was that when you take on this role of shining light on a news story, you also have the ability to color that light, and this was situation where I feel that it wasn't a fair description. I suppose you could also choose not to read my commentary or comments, but that wouldn't really further the goal of community engagement and dialogue, would it?

Larry Kelley said...

No, it would not.

Unfortunately I have to read EVERY comment submitted. And I publish 98.5% of them. And yet people still complain about how vile and toxic some of those are. So that should give you an idea of how truly bad the ones are that I don't publish.

If I wanted to be an alarmist about the lead in the water situation, I would have pointed out that the one site of five that posted the (significantly) highest ppm (at 170) was a classroom drinking bubbler.

Anonymous said...

I think Larry is free to say whatever he wants to say, as long as it's clear to everyone that he is a blogger as n's he is NOT a journalist. Calling Larry Kelley a journalist is an affront to all real journalists.

Peter said...

See - I don't think that would necessarily be alarmist, so long as it was put in context. That would be good information to share (again, in context). (And I assume you meant 170 ppb (per billion) instead of ppm? That's a big difference. I didn't see where that information was available)

Incidentally, if I were being a nit picker, I would point out that by mentioning that statistic in your comment, you're now being slightly alarmist. But I'm not, so I won't do that.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes it was PPB. My mistake. And unfortunately I can't edit comments.

But just to cover for that potential I decided a minute after publishing my comment to add the "raw data" to my original huge 2 paragraph story/article, which beat everyone else by at least 24 hours.

So if you click on the Raw Data Test Results you can see if for yourself, something no other media outlet has done yet.

Peter said...

So, I guess this means that you do in fact want to be an alarmist? You've doubled down on putting data out there without any context, raising an alarm bell ('The highest levels were in a bubbler!') without even trying to figure out if it even has any significant health consequences. You also still haven't mentioned the results obtained after flushing the water for 30 seconds (which I understand to be quite low and which would be a good measure of the water exposure that the vast majority of children would have had during the day.)
This would be a good place for people to get information :
If your goal is to raise alarm bells and click-throughs, you do a good job. If your goal is to raise awareness and education I think this post falls short.

Anonymous said...

Larry is a journalist. He is documenting the interaction of events, people, etc.

You may not like the content, quality, topic selection or comments, but that is another topic.

I think there are far more arguments for Larry being a journalist than those buildings being schools.

Larry Kelley said...

If I wanted to be an alarmist Peter I would have pointed out that (so far) Crocker Farm has been the ONLY Amherst public school tested for lead.

Which means (so far) we are batting 1,000.

Dr. Ed said...

OK,I'm gonna say this: This is the incompetence of the school admin.

Way back in 2011, THE FEDERAL LIMIT ON lead in Brass was dropped from 8% (yikes!) down to 0.25%, and in 2013, the EPA made national news when it decreed that this applied to fire hydrants.

And then the Flint water made national news, and while the issue was one of pH (the polluted Flint River water being acidic) and actual lead or lead-lined pipes (such as are in North Village), it brought the issue of lead in drinking water into the national news.

This is not something they should have been caught napping on.

And Larry, I'd not be surprised to see the schools built in the early 1970's doing a LOT worse.

Anonymous said...

As long as Larry has to pay increasing taxes year after year I'm all for it. No he is not a journalist, fireman, cop, pilot, soldier etc. He is a little town guy that hates what his little home town has become. A MESS

Anonymous said...

A. Agreed that Larry is NOT a journalist.
B. He does hate quite a bit.
C. His little town has changed since the late 1950s.
D. All of the above

Anonymous said...

Who does Larry hate specifically? I can't wait to here this!

Peter said...

Fair point 2:47pm - the conversation should be focused back on the schools. In fact, I really didn't want to litigate Larry's credentials as a journalist or otherwise -- he clearly works hard to get all the information out there. I also understand that in today's media climate, it's essential to read news from any source with a critical eye. Bias is everywhere. I really just wanted to point out that the takeaway from the intro to the story did not reflect the content of the administration's letter, in case people did skim through to the comments without reading the whole letter.

Regarding the other two schools that have yet to be tested (for good reason -- since they are not really used during the summer, they would have received inaccurate readings) -- 1- I wouldn't be surprised if they have some positive results too, given that they are older schools. 2-the administration seems to be taking the appropriate proactive steps to flush those systems daily to keep the water in the safe range while they figure it all out

Ed-regarding not being caught napping, I think you need to give some credit to the administration for proactively taking part in this voluntary state program to test the water in the schools. Crocker Farm is the first of 900 schools in Massachusetts to be tested under this program. Doesn't sound like napping to me.

Dr. Ed said...

Hate is defined as not blindly worshiping the ruling elite.

Anyone remember "Question Authority"?

Dr. ed said...

Peter, I am quite surprised that the schools weren't doing this on their own initiative and/or the Town didn't requite it at the completion of the renovation.

Peter said...

That's a really good question, Ed, and I hope that someone asks it at the forum tomorrow night. My understanding is that up until very recently the main source of lead poisoning has been thought to be from lead paint chips or dust from old houses and so there weren't a lot of people studying lead in old water pipes. With Flint (and with a similar issue that arose in Washington DC several years ago) t's come to the forefront and health departments are just now looking into how much of an issue lead is in the water system. I'm not sure there's a lot of data yet.

Dr. Ed said...

I don't want to think of what they might find in the hot water.

Not a problem as long as you don't drink it, there is a reason why you are supposed to heat COLD water for cooking or Tea.

I'd also love to see an E Coli count on a few first-draws from bublers, I'd not expect to find anything, but I'd want to be sure.

And as to Lead, while the risk to the growing brain largely ends in Elementary school, girls are at risk as long as they are growing taller, i.e. age 15 or so. Reason is the same reason Calcium is important, their bones are still growing. Lead in their blood winds up in their bones (and the boy's bones too) and isn't a problem until they become pregnant years in the future -- at which point the lead leaches out of her bones and circulates to the fetus via her blood.

Hence, even if the state isn't paying for it, I'd want to see a test of the bublers & food-use faucets in the ARMS/ARHS -- at district expense if need be. It's water going into a child's stomach that you need to worry about -- water used for washing hands isn't the same concern.

Dr. Ed said...

Peter, respectfully, lead in drinking water has been an issue in Massachusetts since the 1970's -- back in the late 1970's, the MDC (now the MWRA) started adding something to yhe water leaving the Quabbin to raise the pH due to concerns about lead leaching out of piping in the Metro Boston area.

The first issue, a bigger one, involvrf the pipes bringing water to the building. While the main in the street was usually iron, the connection from it was -- depending on local codes, often either solid lead or a lead-lined iron pipe. Lead doesn't rust which eliminated the rusty-water problem, and solid lead is quite flexible. Case in point North Village -- built on filled-in swampland, the entire complex literally goes up & down depending on the amount of water in the swampland below. So a lot of flexible lead water pipes were used to facilitate this movement, and most of them are still there.

As Fort River was also built on swampy land (I'm told) and the same year (1974) and in the same town, I would not be surprised to find Lead water pipes supplying the building. Now this isn't inherently a problem -- if you have a lot of water going through a lead pipe that hasn't been disturbed in decades, you might not have a problem.

But you don't know until you test the water.

The soder & Brass issues are more localized -- reading the school's letter betweeb the lines, I sensed a sigh of relief that this was all they were dealing with at CF.

And as to lead paint dust, even the EPA is quietly conceding they might have been wrong -- they never accounted for leaded gasoline (police officers weren't chewing paint, and those who directed traffic often had elevated blood lead levels).

Lead raised Octane ratings, gasoline had a LOT of lead in it (it used to foul spark plugs) and airplanes (pre-jets) had three *times* the lead that cars did -- all of this lead settled out of the air as dust.

Lead poisoning was worse in urban areas -- where vehicle traffic was highest.

Dr. Ed said...

Four questions for parents to ask:

1: How can I test the water in my home or apartment for lead?

2: How can I do this if I don't have a whole lot of money?

3: What does "action level" mean? (Hint: it's not LD-50 -- do not panic!)

4: If I live in an apartment and my water has a lead level above this "action level" and my landlord is a total schmuck, (a) what are my rights and (b) who will help me?

Nb: You may be able to learn what you need to without spending a lot of money. Think of the $30 Carbon Monoxide detector you have (or should!) -- it's kinda accurate, the ones the AFD have are a lot more, and much more expensive. Is there a cheap screening test that is considered "good enough" -- I truly don't know.

Anonymous said...

Ed if you live in an appartment on a well...well then it may be your landlord and your lease likely says you will have to vacate while repairs are done and that will be your issue so good luck, m o ght as well move anyway. If you are on public water and you find lead at the tap....then the hunt starts to find the source, may be town or house, but much more will need to be done, could involve neighbors, courts and surely eventually landlords will either give up or pass the cost on with profit. You do not get to win as a renter, even in mass, you still need to move. Then if you fight, your name goes on the internet and gets found the next time you are looking for housing and you get denied. If you do not like your housing, or if you find something unacceptable, you need to move, this is your issue, not someone elses.

Plus it is the school that has lead....but the solution is the same, if you are concerned, pull your kid out, move on, leave the lead to those that want to tolerate it. Any parent who is really concerned about this pulled their kid out, scew the rest...or they are just not concerned. Plus, they do not have to drink it, just tell them not to.

Larry did not cause this or make it worse. I think the lack of non public education of the readers may be the issue, if folks are not smart or educated....this is a big deal. For the rest of us, next....

Peter said...

Answers to all of Ed's questions here:

Anonymous said...

My point, Peter, was if the Board of Health was going to let their duties distract them from their gun-grabbing agenda.