Tests seek to identify odor in school's water Backup system in use at center for disabled

January 31, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

It might be two weeks before students and staff at Carroll Springs School have running water again, as officials track possible contamination at the center for disabled children in Westminster.

City workers are conducting tests to identify the cause of a faint rubbing-alcohol smell noticed by staff members last week in the hot water coming out of the school's taps.

The prime suspect is a solar heater used as a booster system for the building's swimming pool, said Vernon Smith, director of support services for the county schools. The plumbing around the system has been isolated while officials conduct more tests.

Mr. Smith said employees of the Westminster water department, after some testing, believe the problem is in the building, not in the public water system.

It will take two weeks to isolate the problem and test twice to make sure any contaminant is eliminated, Mr. Smith estimated.

In the meantime, the pool is closed and everyone at the school is drinking bottled water. Plant operations workers from Hampstead have trucked in bins of that town's water for hand-washing.

Many of the 55 special education students have severe physical handicaps and wear diapers or require liquids to be poured into feeding tubes.

"We worked with the [Carroll County] Health Department to do a contingency plan for hand-washing and drinking water Monday," Mr. Smith said.

A classroom hand-washing station consists of a 5-gallon plastic container with a spigot at the bottom and a bucket below, and soap. Anti-bacterial disposable cloths are also in each room. Staff members also wear rubber gloves when changing diapers and helping students use the restroom.

Monday "was a little trying because not all the measures were in place," said Principal Robin Farinholt.

"Today, things are much smoother. It's not as convenient as run-ning water, but the staff will do what's best on the children's behalf," Ms. Farinholt said.

Staff members are sending specialized utensils used to help feed some students to Westminster High School for washing.

The Carroll Springs School kitchen has always been a satellite of the one at the high school, where the food is prepared and sent over each day for last-minute preparation.

Now, the Westminster kitchen staff is taking on more of the stages, including pureeing and chopping food for students who have trouble chewing.

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