May 17, 2001 – Drinking water contamination has once again been detected in public school facilities in the St. Thomas-St. John district, and Education Department officials are scrambling to come up with plans to deal with it.
Planning and Natural Resources Department officials have identified coliform bacteria, which are found in human fecal matter, in the drinking water at Edith Williams Elementary School, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, the Joseph Sibilly Elementary cafeteria and the Curriculum Center.
On Wednesday, PNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett said the contaminated water poses a health threat to the students and staff at the affected facilities.
He also said, with regard to required routine testing of water supplies, "There is concern that notices of violation that we served on Education dating back to January had not been responded to."
Education and PNR officials met Wednesday to discuss the contamination. Plaskett said earlier this week that fines had been levied against Education for failure to test drinking-water supplies routinely. The Avis put the fine amount at $96,000.
Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said Wednesday that efforts are being made to correct the problem. She stressed that the contamination is biological, not chemical, in nature and said it can be rectified with chlorine treatment. "This is not the same as problems experienced last year at the Joseph Sibilly School," she said, and the current contamination can be corrected in a "timely manner."
In 1999 and 2000, just before the start of the school year, it was learned that the drinking water at several public schools, including Sibilly and its annex in both cases, was contaminated with volatile organic chemicals including benzene, carbon tetrachloride, methylene chloride and dibromomethane. Despite investigations, government officials say, the sources of contamination were never determined.
PNR had issued notices violation of environmental regulations to Education in connection with the 1999 contaminations, but Education officials did not respond to them until until the story was leaked to the Source and published.
Officials were to meet again Thursday to work on developing a system to monitor public school water supplies regularly for coliform bacteria and other contaminants.

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