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DOH deems St. Lawrence Central water ok after three-month shutdown

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BRASHER FALLS - The water is flowing again in the St. Lawrence Central School District after being out of service for three months.

“The water is now safe to drink. It’s good to have it on, and it’s safe now, which is obviously paramount,” Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said.

District officials had been working with the Department of Health since November after a routine coliform bacteria sample collected Nov. 5 at the elementary school tested positive for total coliform, but negative for e. coli. Four other samples were collected on Nov. 7, and those were also positive for total coliform, but negative for e. coli.

Further samples collected on Nov. 12 showed the presence of total coliform in three samples, while a fourth sample was negative.

The problem then spread to the middle and high school building, where a surveillance sample collected on Nov. 12 tested positive for total coliform, but negative for e. coli.

In both cases, Department of Health officials determined that the installation of a water softening system was completed without sufficiently shock disinfecting the system afterward.

Because of the numerous samples that confirmed the presence of total coliform bacteria in the water system, a boil water advisory was issued on Nov. 8 for the elementary school and on Nov. 19 for the middle and high school.

Drinking fountains were shut off throughout both buildings, bottled water was provided and special precautions were implemented for the preparation and handling of food in the kitchen.

The district was required to submit a plan of action that addressed the issue to the Department of Health by Dec. 6, a goal they met. Their plan called for the installation of chlorination systems at both schools to make the water potable again.

Systems were installed at both buildings during the Christmas break, allowing the district to chlorinate the water. The levels were monitored, and the district recently approved approval from the Department of Health to start using the water again.

“We did precisely what we needed to do. I have to say everyone was excellent. Since they had been through it before they took it in stride,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

The Department of Health also provided helpful assistance along the way to get the water flowing again, he said.

“I can’t say enough about the Department of Health. Obviously they were the ones who shut us down, but they were masterful in their assistance to us. They were fantastic,” he said.

But that’s not the end of the story, according to Mr. Vigliotti.

“Now it’s up to us to address the water quality issues. We still have to address the rusty water in certain locations in the building and water quality issues. They can’t be ignored. It’s something that has to be addressed. The board (of education) is hoping to do that through a near future capital project,” he said.

A capital project would address issues such as replacement of the water storage tanks and piping and filtration system.

Mr. Vigliotti has said their goal would be to pay for the project with no impact on taxpayers, using up the remainder of their EXCEL funding. If it’s not done now, it could mean more problems in the future, something they want to avoid, the superintendent said.

“To have to lose your water for three months of school, it was a hardship,” he said.

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