November 25 2014

School Officials at Board of Health Over 'Food Code Violation' at Memorial School

By: Rich Hosford

Members of the Burlington Public Schools and the School Committee were at the Board of Health meeting on Tuesday night for a hearing on, as listed on the agenda, a food code violation. 


The violation in question was actually about a sink in the kitchen that has brown water and some other sinks in the school that have a similar problem on a less severe scale. 


Director of Public Health Susan Lumenello explained that in March of this year the town did an inspection of the school because someone noticed rusty water coming from both the hot and cold water spouts in the kitchen sink. This coincided with similar complaints from residents and at the time inspectors thought the issue at the school was part of a manganese issue parts of town was experiencing. Manganese turns water brown but is not a health issue. 


However, the manganese problem was solved in town in June, Lumenello said, but another inspection of the school’s water in September showed that the school water was still discolored.  During that test it was also found that the lead and copper levels of the school’s water was above the EPA’s safety standards. 


Department of Public Works Director John Sanchez said that lead and copper levels in other parts of town did not have this issue. 

Burlington Public Schools Director of Finance/Operations Craig Robinson, who also handles a lot of facilities work for the schools, said that as soon as the water issue came up the school started using bottled water for cooking, cleaning and drinking. 


School officials have been working to fix the problem, but because they missed an October 24 deadline to report back to the Board of Health, they were called to the meeting for a hearing. 


Robinson said that after looking through the water system it was discovered that the hot water tanks in the school had failed, causing a corrosive problem. He said school officials contacted the contractor behind the tanks, which were new when the new school opened a couple years ago, and are getting them to honor the warranty. 


“I put on my fiscal bad guy hat and beat up on the contractor to get something under warranty,” he said. 

The school department actually decided to upgrade to stainless steel tanks, an improvement over what was there originally, and only has to pay the difference for the improved system. 


Board of Health member Dr. Ed Wiener said he was more concerned about the problem getting fixed than the cause of the issue. 

“I have to be blunt - I really don’t care,” he said about the explanation of what went wrong. “I only care about the safety of the school and the students. I just want it fixed for our kids and I know you feel the same way. I know you took the safe road and stopped using sink and I want to see you continue that until this is fixed.”


School Committee Vice Chair Christine Monaco, who was there with fellow committee member Thomas Murphy, said she agreed.


“The School Committee had the same conversation,” she said. “We worry about the kids. If my kitchen was brown I wouldn’t use it so the school isn’t using it.” 


Monaco said the school will continue using bottled water until the water tanks are replaced and further testing shows the water to be safe. 

Robinson said the new water tanks will be installed on Friday, December 5th. 


The Board of Health voted to extend the deadline for the school to fix the problem before the board takes action until January 13 with the condition that further testing be done before the water is used again. 


Board Chair Dr. Wayne Saltsman said he was not recommending suspending the school’s food permit at this time as long as action is taken to fix the problem. 



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