Scientists to test 33 Iredell Co. schools for coal ash contamination

Scientists to test 33 Iredell Co. schools for coal ash contamination

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — An independent lab will test the water at a local elementary school Tuesday for possible coal ash contamination.

Although Channel 9's Blaine Tolison learned Harmony Elementary is not near a coal ash structural fill site, several Iredell County schools are.

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A Channel 9 investigation found coal ash is buried near three Iredell County schools.

Harmony Elementary is just one of 33 schools that will undergo water testing.

Construction crews used the area as a structural fill decades ago and 40,000 tons of coal ash was deposited near Lake Norman High School.

Crews working on new construction and rain from recent hurricanes exposed the coal ash.

Water sampling is not a quick process. Before officials with the environmental group can test a faucet, the district has to flush the line for 30 minutes and then wait six hours before the first sample can be taken.

An Iredell-Statesville Schools District employee had to run a faucet at Harmony Elementary at 1 a.m. before experts could collect samples at 8 a.m.

"You want to get a good analysis of anything that may leach out of the water lines and into the drinking water," Terry Laduke with Reliant Environmental said.

The water tests will reveal if contaminants, including chemicals commonly found in coal ash, are getting into students' drinking water.

"Our district does a nice job of putting them first and taking measures to make sure we're safe to be here," Harmony Elementary School Principal Todd Russo said.

District officials told Channel 9 that they were planning to conduct water tests before last month's coal ash exposure.

The tests will cost the district almost $18,000 to complete, a big price to pay for some parents.

"It does give me peace of mind, but to spend all that money to test some water?" said parent Amanda Black.

Other parents believe the peace of mind is worth it.

Officials said it will take about three weeks to get the test results.

If contaminants are found in the water supply, the environmental group will give recommendations on what the district should do next.

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