By Lance Mihm
ST. MARYS -- St. Marys City Schools board of education may have to close Noble Elementary School.
Board members learned at a meeting Wednesday the school may need to be shut down due to lower standards of arsenic/water levels set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be implemented in 2006.
Arsenic levels in the drinking water at the school are well below current standards, but officials are unsure if they can meet the lower standard of 0.01 milligrams per liter (mg/l) to begin next year. The current standard is 0.05, and current water testing results for the school were unavailable this morning.
"It is important for us to develop a plan for what we will do with the school," Business Manager Kurt Kuffner said.
A letter from Larry Moritz of the Ohio EPA said "it is important to remember that the implementation of corrective procedures will require significant time, and therefore, it would be beneficial to finalize a plan of action at your earliest opportunity." The Noble building is 67 years old, and school board members had talked about closing the building in the past during a proposed building project. A levy for building new schools was rejected by voters recently.
In a study completed by Fanning/Howey Associates, Celina, a few different scenarios were offered for complying with the new standards. Keeping the existing well and installing a potassium permanganate feed system with a hydropneumatic-tank was estimated at $25,000, but could leave the school short of other standards in the near future because of the well location. Developing a new well would cost $38,000, but that option depends on arsenic levels in the new well and may require additional treatment and equipment, bringing the cost up to $150,000.
Superintendent Ken Baker said the board needed to put its attention on the subject.
"Someone at the EPA said that we could get an extension if we showed a plan to close the school at the end of the (2005-2006) school year," Baker said.
Board member Darren Caywood pointed out that the kids were not in danger at the Noble building.
"The federal EPA has become more stringent than it has ever been," Caywood said. "The kids are not in any danger if they drink the water."