State begins extensive testing of water, plumbing inside Flint Community Schools

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FLINT (WJRT) - (10/24/15) - This weekend, extensive testing began on the water and plumbing inside Flint Community Schools.

It comes after Governor Rick Snyder's visit to Flint, earlier this month, when the state said several buildings had high lead levels.

ABC12 went inside Freeman Elementary for a first-hand look at the work.

Water collected from drinking fountains and other faucets inside Freeman will be analyzed over the next several days.

"The water that left the Flint Water Treatment Plant was non-detect for lead," said Karen Tommasulo, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Tommasulo said that means service lines and/or plumbing fixtures inside structures are where issues exist.

"We need to be able to fix this problem," Tommasulo said. "We have to know exactly where that lead is leeching into the water and find that particular contamination point."

It's a promise made by the MDEQ, earlier this month, after previous water samples from Flint Community Schools showed lead levels above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion at Brownell Stem Academy, Eisenhower Elementary and Freeman.

"The data underscores the need for a complete and thorough evaluation of the plumbing system with each school," said MDEQ Director Dan Wyant, during his visit to Flint on Oct. 8, 2015.

Freeman's test results were the most concerning, which is why MDEQ began testing at that building.

"It's important that we get a picture of how the water moves through the plumbing system, so we started with a plumping assessment yesterday," Tommasulo said.

The next task was drawing the actual water samples.

"We're starting with two first-draw samples," Tommasulo said. "Those are 125 milliliters each, and those are immediately when we turn the faucet. Take one (and) take the other."

A sample is then taken after flushing the lines for 30 seconds and once more after a two-minute flush.

"Which gets us water from further down the pipe to see how that water interacts," Tommasulo said.

Paperwork is filled out for each bottle. They'll be tested at a state laboratory. Results take a few days and will be handed over to the superintendent of Flint Community Schools.

"We'll move through every other school in the Flint Community Schools district and if there's any other school in the city of Flint that requests the state's assistance as well," Tommasulo said.

That means private and charter schools are eligible for the free testing. The state is picking up the tab for all testing.

For now, students are continuing to drink bottled and filtered water.

Obstacles still remain, even with the reconnection to the Detroit System and the eventual connection to the KWA pipeline.

"In the very long-term, we want to help the city find a way to help replace its aging local infrastructure, which is the root of all of these problems," Tommasulo said.

Flint Community Schools Superintendent Bilal Tawwab released the following statement on Saturday: "Flint Community Schools appreciates the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality coming out to begin testing the water in our schools. This testing is a critical step to making sure our water is safe for our children so they can learn in a healthy environment. We are committed to continuing our collaboration with the MDEQ and all stakeholders to make sure our schools have safe drinking water."

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