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Lead in water: York County site flagged

Written by Ed Mahon/York Daily Record | Mar 18, 2016 3:14 AM
lead_dover-bethany.jpg

Lead monitoring began at Dover Bethany United Methodist Church in 2014 when the state Department of Environmental Protection found there was a daycare on site during an inspection. Some results showed higher-than-allowed lead levels, but the water system passed later tests.(Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

(York) --A drinking water system in the Dover area was flagged for having a high amount of lead in 2014, according to a USA TODAY database of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records.

The system is relatively small. Dover Bethany United Methodist Church serves about 400 people, according to the EPA. More than 10 percent of the water samples taken from taps during a six-month testing period in 2014 contained more than 15 parts per billion of lead.

Lead monitoring began at Dover Bethany in 2014 when the state Department of Environmental Protection found there was a daycare on site during an inspection, according to Neil Shader, press secretary for DEP. He said in an email the church should have reported it had started a daycare, but he added that people who run systems sometimes don't realize that making such a change means they have additional testing requirements.

The system passed later tests.

The church sits on a rural stretch of Bull Road, near farmland, homes and a thrift store. The church site was certified as a child care facility by the state Department of Human Services in 2014.

Senior Pastor Sal Buonocore didn't provide a clear timeline for the child care facility's history. In a phone interview, Buonocore said the church has had a daycare for 20 years or more, although in a later email he said "it was started off" site and "later moved here and it slowly grew and developed."

"We were not certified before because we were not aware of the regulations," he added.

Shader said there was no daycare on the site during an inspection five years before the 2014 one. During the first half of 2014, 12 samples were taken at the site, according to Shader.

Four of the samples had lead levels above the action level, but two of those were taken at an outside tap, which is not a valid sampling location because it's not used for drinking water, Shader said.

Buonocore said the other samples that tested above the action level were in a small bathroom that's attached to his office. He said it's not used for drinking, and it's not used at all by daycare or Sunday church groups students.

The state says lead levels at the system were lower than what the EPA records say, but still above action level. The site had 22 ppb for the 90th percentile result, according to DEP.

It's possible for lead to enter water at different parts of a system, including through brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, according to the EPA.

DEP provided a copy of a notice that was posted on bulletin boards in July 2014 at the church.

The notice said the church was taking a number of steps to correct the problem. The church would be sampling for lead every six months, the notice said.

The church would initiate a public education campaign to ensure that people who drink water in the facility know about the test results and "understand the health effects of lead, the sources of lead and actions they can take to reduce exposure ... in drinking water," the notice said.

The notice said the church would also monitor the water source and "initiate controls to reduce the corrosivity of our water," which can cause lead to leach from plumbing materials that contain lead.

Jeffrey Helwig, a certified water operator who is contracted by the church, said he became responsible for keeping the site in compliance after the 2014 tests came back high. He said the site hasn't had any problems since then, and he suggested testing wasn't done correctly the first time.

Helwig said "you have to look at the whole picture" and not just one number. He said Dover Bethany and other smaller systems take fewer samples, so one bad result can put them above action levels.

The system took samples again in November 2014, plus five samples in the first half of 2015 and 10 samples in the second half of 2015. Those test results did not detect any lead.

Buonocore said he's not concerned about health risks from the site's well water, and he said he doesn't "need a scare in the community."

Results had error, lab says

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records identified another York County system, the Fairview Township Building, as having a high amount of lead in 2012. State Department of Environmental Protection press secretary Neil Shader said the department sent a notice to Fairview Township in 2013 with information about test results and public education requirements, although Shader said the department did not have a copy of the notice available.

Donald F. Martin III, acting township manager, said he wasn't aware of any such results in 2012, and he provided a copy of lab results from 2012 showing results were below the action level.

Christina French, a spokesperson for Microbac Laboratories Inc., which analyzed the 2012 samples, said those lower lab results were correct and that information was entered into the state Department of Environmental Protection's system incorrectly. French said the state's system has since changed to make that type of error less likely.

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