Officials suspect the arsenic was coming from a naturally occurring source.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
BRACEVILLE -- The level of arsenic in well water at Vaughn Elementary School has dropped back down to acceptable levels, according to tests by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Children will be given letters today notifying their parents that EPA tests conducted last week found that school's water had only low levels of the potentially harmful substance.
"It's a relief," said Alex Geordan, the school principal. "The purpose of us being here is to educate youngsters, and when you have to redirect your attention to the issue of water, it is kind of a pain."
Bottled water: Pupils at the elementary school have been drinking bottled water, at a cost of about $300 a week to the LaBrae School District, since winter break. During the break, school officials were notified by the EPA that a routine test of the school's water had found unsafe levels of arsenic in the school's water.
More tests last month found an arsenic level of 100 parts per billion. The EPA considers 50 parts per billion the maximum acceptable arsenic level, though the threshold is to drop to 10 parts per billion in 2004.
Consumption of arsenic at higher levels over the course of many years is linked to bladder cancer, officials said. Arsenic is naturally found in the earth in Northeast Ohio. It is also a component of some pesticides, officials said.
The latest test samples, drawn Jan. 9, showed that the level of arsenic had subsided to 39 parts per billion in one of the school's wells, and 2 parts per billion in the other.
If another test shows that the water is safe, the school will be allowed to turn its drinking fountains back on, said Kara Allison, a spokeswoman for the EPA.
The school will be required to continue monthly testing for six months, she said.
Natural leaching: The temporary spike in arsenic levels suggests that the element was leaching into the aquifer from a naturally occurring deposit, she said.
Results are expected today from tests on wells at three homes near the elementary school, said Frank Migliozzi, director of environmental health for Trumbull County Board of Health. An additional 26 local homeowners have asked to have their water tested, he said.