Rochester Community Schools officials closed Rochester Adams High School May 21-22 due to concerns with water quality.

Rochester Community Schools officials closed Rochester Adams High School May 21-22 due to concerns with water quality.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond


Rochester schools reopen after water deemed safe

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 21, 2018

 A water sample recently taken by a teacher from a science room faucet at Van Hoosen Middle School tested positive for mercury levels significantly higher than the maximum contaminant level recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lab, however, is not a certified lab for testing.

A water sample recently taken by a teacher from a science room faucet at Van Hoosen Middle School tested positive for mercury levels significantly higher than the maximum contaminant level recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lab, however, is not a certified lab for testing.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

ROCHESTER HILLS — Two schools in Rochester Hills welcomed students back on Wednesday, May 23, after a certified water quality lab revealed that water samples collected at both schools did not contain high levels of mercury.

Paragon Laboratories — a state-certified drinking water testing facility in Livonia — was called in to assess the water after the Rochester Community School district received word that a water sample taken from a Van Hoosen Middle School science room during a school experiment contained high levels of mercury.

As a precaution, the district immediately disabled the drinking water at Van Hoosen and nearby Adams High School, notified parents and closed the two schools May 21-22, disrupting senior exams.

“The safety and security of our students is our utmost task — the most important thing near and dear to our heart,” Superintendent Robert Shaner said of the decision.

Paragon Laboratories officials said they tested the water at both schools by collecting eight samples from eight different locations, using methods certified by the state of Michigan and the Environmental Protection Agency to detect mercury.  

“All of them returned a result of non-detect for mercury,” said Jeffery Raymond, of Paragon Laboratories.

Raymond said the initial testing — in which samples were collected by a teacher and were sent to a colleague at Arizona State University for testing — was not conducted by certified personnel, the samples were not tested at a lab certified for testing water quality, and the process was not performed by a state or federally approved method.

“I would estimate that 99 to 99.5 percent of the instances when you get a false high result is due to sampling error,” he said.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said Rochester Hills will continue to have Paragon perform water testing at Van Hoosen and Rochester Adams for the next 10 days. He said the city consistently tests its water system.

“Those are done, oftentimes, in conjunction with the Great Lakes Water Authority, and those are performed at the entry points into our water distribution system,” he said.

Shaner said the incident was a “great inconvenience” for many the community.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our community, but we thought it was very important to maintain and assure the safety of our students,” he said.

Residents can review the water test results at rochesterhills.org. To stay up to date on any future city alerts, Barnett encouraged residents to sign up for the “Notify Me” service on the city’s website at www.rochesterhills.org/AlertCenter.