School has water again after 6 weeks Odor from tap led to Jan. 23 turnoff

no contaminants found

March 05, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The water was running again yesterday in all but two classrooms at the Carroll Springs School.

Sinks had been turned off for more than a month, beginning when staff members noticed an odor in the hot tap water on Jan. 23.

Adjoining Rooms 9 and 12, the only rooms in the Westminster special education school where the smell was detected, continue to use bottled water for drinking and washing hands. Some people say there still is a faint odor of rubbing alcohol in the hot tap water there.

"It meets all the criteria for safe public drinking water," said Charles Zeleski, assistant director of environmental health for the Carroll County Health Department.

He said he and school officials still believe the source of the odor was the solar panels used to heat water for the school's pool, and that the panels have been disconnected since just after the odor was detected.

"I'm not nervous at all," said teacher Peggy Kern Payne. " I think at this point It's a very pragmatic way to go. Everyone has a different level of sensitivity to this. Some smell nothing, and others can detect a faint odor." Testing by private laboratories found no trace of three suspected contaminants, isopropanol, ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.

The two glycols, especially, were suspected from the start because they are present inside the solar panels. As part of an antifreeze substance in the panels, the glycols are supposed to circulate in a sealed system and never flow into the swimming pool or any water supply.

The odor could be lingering even though the level of glycol is too low to detect, Mr. Zeleski said.

Daily flushing -- turning on the hot water in all sinks and letting it run for a few hours -- probably has reduced the concentration of any contaminant, he said.

The staff now can use sinks for hand-washing, which is a frequent activity at the county's only school devoted to special education because many of the 55 students have medical conditions that require diapers, feeding tubes and other hands-on care.

The staff and students decided they liked the spring-water coolers enough to keep them around, anyway, so everyone in the building has access to bottled water for drinking.

Whether because of the taste or the novelty of the coolers, Principal Robin Farinholt said, students seem to be developing a healthy habit of drinking more water.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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