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Student sues Butler Area (Pa.) district over lead-tainted water

Student sues Butler Area (Pa.) district over lead-tainted water

Girl who attended Summit Township Elementary has elevated levels of lead in her blood, attorney says.

A student who attended a Pennsylvania school that has been closed because of contaminated well water has sued the district and its former superintendent over the school system's handling of the issue.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Jillian Tate and her mother, Jennifer, have filed a federal lawsuit against the Butler Area School District and Dale Lumley, who resigned over the weekend as district superintendent.

The complaint contends that the district knew for months that the water at Summit Township Elementary School had excessive levels of lead, but did nothing to stop use of the water until January.

The Butler district's maintenance director “made a conscious and intentional decision to neither warn the students of this dangerous condition nor take any appropriate steps to fix the dangerous conditions," the suit contends.

Brendan B. Lupetin, an attorney for the Taits, says a recent test of Jillian's blood showed lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter—a level at which the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends medical intervention.

As of Monday, students no longer are housed at the Summit school facility. They are attending classes at the reopened Broad Street Elementary School in Butler, which is connected to the city water system and not well water.

The lawsuit focuses on a five-month time period—from Aug. 15 to Jan. 20—during which a district official became aware of water contamination. Students, staff and others at the school were not notified and continued drinking the well water.

In January, Lumley disclosed that the district’s maintenance director learned about the contamination problem in September, but failed to tell him about it until Jan. 19.

On Aug. 15, the state's Department of Environmental Protection notified the district of unacceptable lead levels above 15 parts per billion and as high as 55 parts per billion, with all 10 tested samples showing unacceptable levels.

The department also informed the district on Jan. 20 that the water also contained E coli, an infectious bacteria, and unacceptably high levels of copper.

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