Hereford High forced on diet of bottled water

September 23, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Until school officials can find out what why one well is contaminated at Hereford High School, the students and staff there are drinking bottled water, and water is being pumped in for other uses.

Water in the Baltimore County school's drinking fountains tested positive this week for fecal contamination, and the drinking fountains were shut down as soon as it was discovered, said Principal Ray Gross.

The exact level of contamination isn't known yet, but any amount "is a health hazard," he said. Fecal coliform in water can cause diarrhea, cramping, nausea, headaches and fatigue.

No students or staff members have been sent home with these symptoms, and the absenteeism rate is normal, Mr. Gross said. He said he is assuming that the contamination level is low.

Letters were sent home explaining the problem and the temporary solution. Warnings about the contamination have been posted around the school, as required by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The tainted water was discovered during routine testing by school maintenance department employees who monitor the water every three months in all schools with wells.

Maintenance department employees worked all night to hook up the emergency water supply so school could open on time Wednesday, said Faith Hermann, the county school system's executive director of facilities.

Water for sinks and toilets is being pumped into the school from two tank trucks. Bottled water is being used for drinking and cooking.

With about 900 students, the school uses about 10,000 gallons of water daily, said Mr. Gross. School officials took water samples from the school's four wells and have isolated the contamination to one well.

They are trying to find the problem that is allowing bacteria to penetrate the well. The well and the 70,000-gallon water tower will be drained and sanitized with chlorine, Mr. Gross said.

He said he expects that work to continue through the weekend.

"We won't turn on the water until it's safe," he said.

The water will then be tested every 14 days.

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