2 Rochester Hills schools to reopen after water tests OK

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
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District officials closed Van Hoosen Middle School and Rochester Adams High School on Tuesday while water tests were conducted.

Rochester Hills — Two schools in Rochester Hills will reopen Wednesday after a certified-lab determined mercury was not found at high levels in school water samples.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett announced Tuesday afternoon that testing company Paragon Laboratories examined eight water samples from Van Hoosen Middle School and Rochester Adams High School and found all samples returned a “non-detect” for mercury.

This means that based on certified laboratory testing, mercury was not detected in the water, according to a statement on the Rochester Community Schools website.

"The water is deemed safe for consumption...This is great news, as nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our students and staff," the district's website said.

The Oakland County district closed two schools late Monday after high levels of mercury were found in a water sample from a class science experiment.

Students were dismissed early Monday and all drinking water sources at the schools were disabled, officials said. 

On Tuesday, superintendent Robert Shaner apologized for the "inconvenience" of closing both schools but said it was important to maintain student safety.

“As for the news every student is out there waiting to hear: yes, ladies and gentlemen, there will be school tomorrow at Van Hoosen and Adams High School," Shaner said.

As for the erroneous samples coming from student experiments, Shaner said: "Young sciences sometimes learn from failures. We and Paragon hope to teach them more about water sampling."

Barnett said the initial tests were not conducted by certified personnel, were not tested at a certified lab for testing water quality and were not performed by a state or federally approved method.

The city of Rochester Hills will continue to have Paragon perform water testing for the next 10 days at both schools, Barnett said.

In a statement posted on the school district's Facebook page on Monday, Shaner said the district learned about the water issue from an Arizona State University laboratory manager and research professor.

"The safety of our students is always our priority," Shaner said. "Although the tests were not conducted by certified personnel or sent to a certified lab for testing water quality, we still take these concerns very seriously."

The professor indicated that a water sampling taken by a teacher from a science room faucet at Van Hoosen contained mercury levels significantly higher than the maximum contaminant level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency — 2 parts per billion. 

Three water samples were tested during the science experiment conducted by teacher: one from Van Hoosen Middle School, one from Paint Creek and one from Sargent Creek. The average sampling was 56 parts per billion, according to the district statement.

Van Hoosen and Rochester Adams schools use the same water source. 

The early dismissal on Monday interrupted testing for some seniors at Rochester Adams. The district secured classrooms at Oakland University for Tuesday afternoon to allow seniors to take final exams.


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