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Fairfield's McKinley School Gets All Clear To Reopen Thursday

Fairfield interim superintendent Stephen Tracy
Fairfield interim superintendent Stephen Tracy Photo Credit: Fairfield Public Schools

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — It's good news for McKinley School in Fairfield, according to Interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy. At least for students who want to head back to class: The school will reopen on Thursday, Nov. 3, after a water problem was resolved.

At about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the school district received a set of “clean” water test results for McKinley School from the York Lab in Stratford, Tracy said in a statement Wednesday evening.

By 7 p.m. Wednesday, the district had reviewed the results with state and local health officials.

"Therefore, McKinley School will reopen tomorrow morning, Thursday, November 3, and will operate on a regular schedule," he said in a statement.

The school was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday after a solution containing sodium nitrate was accidentally added into the hot water system at McKinley School on Oct. 31.

The details of the independent water testing results will be posted to the McKinley School website .

A total of 30 water samples was taken, all of which came back below the Maximum Contaminant Level for sodium and nitrites, as established by the Connecticut Public Health Code, Tracy said.

All 30 samples came back with Ph levels within the acceptable range as established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But two of the samples — from the sink in the women’s bathroom, measured at 9.4, and the sink the nurse’s office, measured at 8.7 — are above the state’s “goal” range of 6.5 to 8.5. As a precaution, therefore, both of these sinks will be taken out of service until further testing and corrective action can be taken, Tracy said.

"Our priority throughout this process has been the health and safety of our students and our staff," he said. "Now that we’ve assured ourselves that McKinley’s water supply is safe, we look forward to getting back to school."

About one gallon of the sodium nitrite solution — diluted to about 40 percent to 50 percent — was introduced into the school’s hot water system on Oct. 31, he said. The sodium nitrite was further diluted by the many gallons of water contained in the hot water system.

The school’s drinking fountains are served exclusively by the cold water system, so it is very unlikely that anyone would have ingested any sodium nitrate during the 90-minute period between the introduction of the contaminant into the hot water system and the action to shut down the school’s water supply, Tracy said.

If anyone did drink hot water during that period, they would probably have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms immediately, he said.

If anyone was exposed to the contaminant through hand washing, Dr. Gary Ginsberg, toxicologist at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said the potential risk would be for immediate skin and/or eye irritation. Again, there would be no long-term or chronic effects.

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