Water Testing on Wisconsin Ave Campus

Dear Parents and Employees,

As promised, I am following up on the letter I sent last month regarding water testing that we have been conducting on our campuses.

In my initial letter on the topic, I reported that in accordance with a new Maryland law regarding the testing for lead in drinking water in schools, Sidwell Friends conducted a thorough sampling regimen at the Bethesda campus. We contracted with Apex Companies, a leading environmental testing firm, to complete this work. My July letter regarding the results and the remediation plan can be accessed here.

The District of Columbia does not have the same law in place; however, we are voluntarily holding ourselves to the Maryland state standard for testing and remediation on both of our campuses. To that end, the School worked with Apex to test the DC campus and committed to reporting the results to our constituencies.  

Apex sampled 412 sources on the DC campus; 34 sources exceeded the Maryland standard of 20 parts per billion (ppb) for lead, 23 of which were shower heads. Other locations include sinks as well as eye wash stations in science labs.  

The two most noteworthy sources that tested for elevated levels are a faucet located in the cafeteria that is used to provide drinking water (26.8 ppb) and the espresso machine in the Fox Den (70 ppb). All locations that tested for elevated levels were turned off upon receipt of the initial results and will remain disabled until the issues have been addressed.  

Consistent with best practices, we conducted a second round of "flush tests" on the locations in question. All flush samples passed except for the espresso machine (28.9 ppb); further sampling indicates that both the machine and a short feeder line are likely sources and will remain nonoperational until they can be replaced. 

For all the other locations, the flush test results indicate that any problems are localized to the specific fixtures rather than precipitated by the municipal source or the local piping network. These fixtures will be replaced.

In some cases, not all fixtures of the same model tested above the action level (that is, some shower heads produced elevated lead levels while others did not). We will, however, be replacing all fixtures of any model that tested above the action level, regardless of how any individual fixture tested.

In following the procedures established by Maryland law, we have completed the prescribed notification form for the DC campus, which can be accessed here. This document provides a detailed report for each source with elevated levels, shares the remediation plan, and has links to additional useful information.

Also, as referenced in my prior letter, we will be replacing all the water fountains with models that are filtered, chilled, and include a bottle filling station. As part of our green mission, we encourage everyone to make use of these stations and use refillable water bottles.

I apologize for this situation and any concern it causes. As I said in my initial letter, the health and safety of our community is of paramount importance, and this matter has our full attention. We are working closely with Apex and our facilities staff to remedy the issue expeditiously and to ensure that it does not recur. Should you have any specific questions about the test results or remediation plan, please contact Russ Friedson, Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations, at friedsonr@sidwell.edu or 202-537-8122. Special thanks to Russ for supervising the remediation efforts.  

Thank you, as always, for your time and attention.  Again, I apologize for this situation, and look forward to seeing you soon.

In friendship,

Bryan Garman
Head of School

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