Students and staff at Stafford Primary School are still drinking water out of bottles and washing their hands with chemical hand sanitizer.

They've been doing that for nearly six weeks, and they're likely to continue until the last week of April, according to Patrick Meigs, Stafford principal and Patric McGough, district facility manager.

Even though the water is clean and bacteria-free, this final delay has been caused because of an unexpected requirement from the Oregon Department of Human Services, Public Health Division, Drinking Water Program (DHS).

The well was shut down March 3 when a test showed Total coliform bacteria in water coming from the school's drinking fountains.

One of the likely causes of the contamination was a backflow inhibitor for a fire pump, McGough said, but there could have been other causes. In the past nearly six weeks, nearly everything except the pipes in the water system has been replaced at Stafford, including the well pump, pressure tank, chlorination system, a fire-pump backflow inhibitor and now the addition of a UV sterilizer.

Last week, the new chlorination system was operational, and the final test proved that the water was clear of Total coliform bacteria, which meets the requirements for Clackamas County Environmental Health Drinking Water Program.

But Oregon DHS decided to require the addition of an ultra-violet light treatment system. Calculations used by Oregon DHS indicate that the chlorination system may not meet peak demand loads on the building, McGough said. Therefore, (DHS) has required the installation of the UV system.

'The water at Stafford currently meets the health standards established by Clackamas County,' he said, 'but until we complete the installation of the UV system, we must continue to use bottled water and hand sanitizer.'

Unfortunately, McGough was not notified until 5:30 p.m. last Friday that the district's plans for the UV system were approved, and the hardware and parts for the approved system are only available in Ontario, Canada.

'The estimated delivery date for the parts is April 22,' McGough said. 'Assembly and installation will take approximately two days. Therefore, the earliest date for completion is April 24.'

Once installation is complete, the well at Stafford will be certified to provide safe drinking water for the 570-student school and its staff.

Meigs says the students, staff and parents have been very tolerant.

'I am so thankful and appreciative of our community,' he said. 'They have been so supportive and understanding.'

To date, McGough said, the district has a partial bill of more than $45,000, but that doesn't include the UV light treatment system. Since this expense was unbudgeted, the district will have to decide where it can transfer funds from or which contingency it can tap to pay the unexpected bill.

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