UPDATE: McKinley Elementary School status

Below is a statement from Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Tracy regarding McKinley Elementary School:

As a part of the school district’s response to the accidental introduction of a solution containing sodium nitrate into the hot water system at McKinley School on October 31, I have been consulting with state and local public health officials regarding the potential consequences of exposure to this substance.

Approximately one gallon of the sodium nitrite solution — diluted to about 40% to 50% — was introduced into the school’s hot water system. The sodium nitrite was further diluted by the many gallons of water contained in the hot water system.

Based on an assessment by the Aquarion Water Company of the plumbing arrangements at the school, it has been determined that there was likely no “intermixing” between the hot and cold water systems. As the school’s drinking fountains are served exclusively by the cold water system, it is very unlikely that anyone would have ingested any sodium nitrate during the approximately 90-minute period between the introduction of the contaminant into the hot water system and the action to shut down the school’s water supply.

If anyone did drink hot water during that period, they would probably have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms immediately. Anyone who believes they may have ingested hot water at the school on Monday afternoon and is experiencing gastrointestinal distress should consult their doctor. I am advised that, even in such cases, there would be no long term or chronic effects.

In the event that anyone was exposed to the contaminant as a result of hand washing, Dr. Gary Ginsberg, toxicologist at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, reports that the potential risk would be for immediate skin and/or eye irritation. Again, there would be no long term or chronic effects.

The “Bottom Line,” according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health: “Based on the likelihood that there was no oral ingestion or substantial dermal exposure to nitrite in the affected hot water supply, to our knowledge, students and staff did not receive an exposure of public health concern… Going forward, we do not expect any further health consequences from this contamination event.”

I will make a decision regarding the re-opening of McKinley School late this afternoon, once we have received the results of the water testing currently being conducted by an independent laboratory.

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