Proactive water testing in schools can be lifesaver

Mention Flint nowadays and you think of high lead levels and a purportedly slow response by the state government, depending with whom you speak.

If proper precautions had taken place before the crisis, though, the crisis likely would have been averted, or at least lessened.

Recent situations with elevated lead levels at Northern Michigan University and Marquette Area Public Schools are nowhere near the problem that plagues Flint, but being proactive should ensure it stays that way.

MAPS recently announced that elevated lead levels had been found in some schools, but not all, fortunately. Another bit of good news was that no elevated copper levels were detected.

The decision to test the water came about following headlines about NMU’s recent discovery of elevated lead levels in several buildings.

MAPS Superintendent Bill Saunders decided to be proactive by having the school district’s water tested, even though there is no mandate for schools to test their water.

When results were discovered, he shared them with the public through a letter to parents, students, staff and the community.

Saunders said at a Monday MAPS Board of Education meeting he plans to share more results after more testing that was to take place early this week.

The source of the elevated levels still is unclear, but plans are being formed to deal with the situation. One possible remedy is to replace water fountains in schools, hopefully before school begins.

It’s doubtful the MAPS lead levels would lead to severe health problems. Still, it’s not a bad idea to follow federal guidelines.

The easy thing would be not to have bothered to test in the first place, especially if schools aren’t required to do this. Another easy way out was to have hidden the results and quietly taken action, or worse, no action at all.

The example set by MAPS, and NMU with its public announcement, shows public transparency deserves a place in dealing with less-than-ideal circumstances.

That, and taking care of problems before there’s an opportunity for them to worsen, probably will save a lot of grief in the long run.

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