MIDDLETOWN — A school that had delayed a return to live classroom instruction because of mold found another problem: high levels of lead in drinking water.

Middletown public schools had delayed the start of classes until Monday after mold was discovered in the Bayview, Harmony, Leonardo, Middletown Village and Ocean Avenue elementary schools.

After receiving clearance from an environmental consultant, only Middletown Village was unable to fully reopen. The school's K-2 students were back to in-person instruction on Monday but grades 3-5 were virtual.

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High levels of lead

The district also tested the drinking water in sinks, water outlets and food preparation sinks.

In a letter to the district, Business Administrator Amy Doherty said that water fountains and many sinks were not in used during the 2020-2021 school year.

"When water stands in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve into the drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning may contain fairly high levels of lead," Doherty said.

Of the 18 samples taken, all but eight tested below the lead action level established by the Environmental Protection Agency for lead in drinking water (15 wg/I [ppb]). A "do not drink" sign was placed on each of the affected outlets and filters installed.

Follow-up sampling and analysis will be performed at a date to be determined.

Consumption of lead in water can lead to damage the nervous system, brain and kidneys, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. In young children, lead exposure can lower IQ levels, affect hearing, reduce attention span, and hurt school performance.Young children and fetuses are at greatest risk if the toxic effects of lead.

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