Saturday, September 27, 2003

Tests show bacteria in Loveland school water


EPA calm, but pupils not taking chances

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOVELAND - City officials were trying to locate the source of bacteria at two Loveland schools Friday after their tap water tested positive for fecal coliform.

At Loveland Early Childhood Center, where the bacteria were discovered in a sample taken Tuesday, students were drinking bottled water and using waterless hand cleaner as a precaution.

St. Columban School, located about a half mile away on Oakland Road, would have been asked to do the same had they been in session, city officials said. A test there turned up positive last week.

The OEPA has not ordered Loveland to issue a citywide boil water advisory because tests suggest that the contamination is linked only to the schools and possibly to Loveland's water testing methods, agency environmental specialist Dan Cloyd said.

Assistant City Manager Tom Carroll said a testing flaw is the likely culprit because the contaminated samples were taken from janitors' sinks.

The Hamilton County Health Department also conducted plumbing inspections at the schools Friday - at the EPA's suggestion - to determine whether sewage backup was a factor. The inspections provided few answers, Carroll said.

City officials expect the results of further water tests today and will post them on the city's Web site, www.lovelandoh.com.

Cloyd said the test results from the Early Childhood Center were above 200 colonies of fecal coliform, which comes from human or animal waste and can cause serious illness in children, the elderly and people with immune disorders.

According to environment standards, water containing more than 200 colonies is unsafe for swimming.

The EPA did not order Loveland to take extra precautions at the school, saying the problems were not considered acute. Even so, Loveland provided the bottled water to the Early Childhood Center because city officials did not want to take any chances, Carroll said.

Tests in at least one of the schools turned up positive for coliform in July, Carroll said. But, it was thought to be a fluke after subsequent samples were clear.

Further samples taken after the coliform surfaced at St. Columban last week and at the Early Childhood Center this week also came back clean, as did other water tests from various sites in the same half-mile stretch, Cloyd said.

District spokeswoman Meg Krsacok said cafeteria staff at the school also were using bottled water for food preparation.

The advisory didn't pose much of a problem, Principal Doug Savage said. Kindergartners thought it was a special treat to have their own water bottles in class.

"It's kind of a fun thing for them, and we've only had one spill so far," Savage said.

Loveland resident Meg Rekstis, who has a daughter in kindergarten, said she was concerned but not panicked.

"The precautionary measures are a good way of handling it until they know more facts," she said.

E-mail smclaughlin@enquirer.com




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