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BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor Area Schools found lead levels ranging from 5.1 to 290 parts per billion coming from 30 of the water fixtures throughout the district’s six schools, recent tests revealed.

The federal action level for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb. Bottled water is allowed to have up to 5 ppb of lead.

Superintendent Andrae Townsel said the rest of the roughly 100 water fixtures tested had lead levels in the water below 5 ppb.

The results can be found by following a link on the district’s Facebook page, which was posted Friday.

Two weeks ago, Townsel said due to questions about the safety of Benton Harbor water, he was having all of the district’s water fixtures tested to make sure they were providing safe drinking water.

Until the results came back, he said all of the district’s water fixtures were turned off, with students and staff being given bottled water.

On Monday, Townsel said the water fixtures in question would remain off until they can be replaced.

Of the 30 fixtures that produced water with lead above 5 ppb, he said most of them have not been used for a while, but was uncertain for how long.

Most of the water fixtures are labeled as “previously unused, remains shut off.”

Sixteen of the water fixtures were in schools in Benton Harbor, including the Discovery Enrichment Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Benton Harbor High School and the CAPE Center. The test results from those fixtures ranged from 5.1 to 290 ppb.

The other 14 were in the two schools in Benton Township – Fair Plain East Elementary School and Fair Plain Middle School. The test results from those fixtures ranged from 6.4 to 100 ppb. Most of the water fixtures testing high came from 12 classrooms at Fair Plain East.

Benton Harbor and Benton Township have separate water plants and water distribution systems.

Benton Harbor has been under a state advisory for lead since October 2018, when routine sampling found higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in some of the city’s tap water.

Last week, Benton Township officials reported that the water from its water system was safe because the township is in compliance with state and federal drinking water rules.

In an emailed statement, Benton Township Supervisor Cathy Yates said only about 1 percent of the water service lines in the township are made of lead.

“The high levels found in the vacant schools is because of water sitting stagnant in the pipes for long periods of time. It is expected and not a cause for concern,” she wrote.

However, Fair Plain East Elementary School and Fair Plain Middle School are in use. The district’s fourth- and fifth-grade students attend Fair Plain East while the district’s sixth- through eighth-grade students attend the middle school.

Water Supervisor Kyle Tryan said the township will test anyone’s water upon request. He can be contacted at 925-0616, ext. 238 or emailed at ktryan@bentonchartertownship-mi.gov.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege

Staff Writer at The Herald-Palladium