St Olaf’s Drinking Water

Over the summer, Saint Olaf Catholic School in Bountiful, Utah, tested its drinking water as they do every year.

This time, though, tests came back showing signs of Lead in the water.

RETEGO Labs president, Les Merrill, has been working closely with Bountiful's Water Department to test water in the local schools. Each school has been tested for Lead and Copper as well as a battery of tests needed for a full corrosion study. It was during this project that Les met St. Olaf's principal, Simon McFall. They formed a connection right away, especially since Les attended Elementary School there 60years before.

This time however, Principal McFall called Les directly and asked him to come test the water. Initial testing by RETEGO indicated Lead in the water. To be sure of the results and to determine the scope of the problem, several samples were taken from different locations throughout the school. When the alarming Lead numbers were shared with the principal, he produced results from another lab which showed the same numbers.

Simon’s phone call to Les was more than just an effort to verify findings from the first lab results. Principal McFall wanted to know if he had reason to be alarmed or take action of any kind. Simply being told that you have “X” amount of something doesn’t help you understand if you have a problem or not. Without context it’s just a meaningless number. In this case, Merrill explained that the numbers indicated that there is indeed a problem and action should betaken immediately. Les explained that there is no safe level of Lead, especially when children are involved.

Many people are surprised to find that RETEGO’s reports show that the water provided by the city is excellent.This has been the same result in thousands of tests run byRETEGO Labs. The problem wasn’t with the Utility, the problem was coming from the plumbing inside the school. This is a common occurrence in older homes, businesses and schools with old plumbing containing Copper pipe with Lead based solder and/or galvanized pipe. St Olaf was built in 1959. The ban on Lead based solder was not put into place until 1986, so homes and other structures built before 1987 likely have Lead based solder used to join pipes and fixtures.These contaminants can be leached into the water supply through normal water use.

With RETEGO providing the context and verification of the Lead problem at the school, a plan of action could be implemented. To his credit, Principal McFall immediately shut off all drinking water fountains as well as any water tap that might be used for cooking. Next, he contacted administrators and legal representation to come up with a plan to inform parents and faculty.Notification of the problem was sent out within 48 hours. Knowing that parents would have questions, all were invited to attend a Zoom meeting with administrators and RETEGO Labs and additional experts in the field. St. OlafsPrincipal noted that students were never exposed to water with Lead since the problem was identified and fixed before school started. The initial response and notification of all concerned parties was perfectly appropriate and all the more inspiring for its rapid implementation.

To get rid of the Lead, RETEGO Labs put in a customized and certified treatment process. The system needed for the problems found at the school removes up to 99.95% of both Soluble andParticulate Lead. A bonus benefit of this system is that it also removes 99.95%of PFOA, PFOS, and Cysts (Giardia and Crypto). The filters are installed in a series after determining the needed capacities. In this case, 6 filters were installed to ensure there would always be more than enough capacity. They also installed Active Armor, which is a culinary safe orthophosphate that binds to ferrous surfaces in a one molecule thick layer. This essentially puts a nano coating on metallic surfaces creating a layer between it and the water supply helping mitigate leaching of metals into the water. Finally, an RO system with a pH balance and remineralizing filter was installed to provide the best drinking water possible.

RETEGO Labs also arranged for 3 water fountains ($6000 retail value) provided by RETEGO, G&S Sales and theLovell company. G&S Sales and Lovell provided deep discounting, happily doing their part in providing clean water for the children. RETEGO Labs also donated the piping, coordinated the volunteers and worked side by side with them to make sure that the entire school's drinking water system was replaced, ensuring the delivery of perfectly balanced drinking water to those new fountains. In the end, the donations, discounts, and free labor saved the school close to $10,000.

In a report done by KSL 5 TV (KSL Article and Video) Simon McFall, Saint Olaf Catholic School principal, said they want only the best for their students.

“We didn’t want to just find out if the water was good or clean. We wanted to find out that it was the best,” McFall said.

Clean water is now available to all 140 students.

This wasn’t inexpensive for the school, but “Yeah, the number is big. We don’t receive public funding, but… how do you put a price tag on the safety of a child? How do you put a price on the safety and quality of the community?” McFall said.

RETEGO said the clean water came with a quick turnaround and took only a couple of days. RETEGO Labs ordered the system, arranged the needed plumbing fixtures, sourced the drinking fountains and began installation within a couple days of authorization. It was a refreshing example of the speed at which things can be done when educational, business, and private interests come together to solve issues.

Now, more than 11,000 gallons of clean water have made their way through the system with no detectable level of Lead.

“I would dare say that the drinking water in this school is the best drinking water in the state,” Merrill said.

While this story has been an inspiring example of what’s possible it’s sadly rarely duplicated. This isn’t the first time RETEGO Labs has found high levels of Lead in a residential dwelling, church, or business. In some cases the problem is ignored or ridiculed. Many pass the problem on to others who don’t understand the problem but assume that if there were a “real problem” someone within their own organization would have said something. They all have the sad commonality of doing nothing. The problem is complex, so not understanding it is forgivable, but refusing to understand it is not.