Butler Area SD supt. resigns as district copes with water crisis under his watch

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BUTLER COUNTY, Pa. - The Butler Area School District Board of Directors has accepted the superintendent’s resignation, which was announced Sunday night on the district’s website.

Dr. Dale Lumley turned in his resignation with the intent to retire, effective immediately. It comes as the school district copes with a water crisis that occured under his watch.

“I think it's necessary, but I think there needs to be consequences. It can't be without consequences,” parent Marcy Weiland said.

“There's probably a lot of facts that we don't know in the case, and sometimes people become very angry and demand somebody to resign when they don't know the whole back story," parent Beth Harold, who worked with Lumley in the past, said. “He's always seemed to be a very well-educated, very caring individual, and I really don't think he would put children at risk intentionally.”

Retired superintendent Dr. William Pettigrew will serve as acting superintendent until a new one is appointed.

“I'm looking forward to the challenge, but I know the staff here. Teachers, faculty, admin staff, support staff are very supportive,” Pettigrew told Channel 11 News on Monday.

The Department of Education gave its approval last Tuesday for the Butler Area School District to relocate students to a once-closed school building after new test results showed the presence of E. coli in well water that supplies Summit Township Elementary School.

“A lot of people were angry a couple of months ago when myself and a couple of councilmen blocked the sale of this school to a nonprofit,” Butler Mayor Tom Donaldson said.

An open house was held Friday for parents of children who started school at Broad Street Elementary School on Monday. Summit staff and teachers worked for several days to get the school ready, and the formerly empty rooms are now filled with chairs, computers and even the students' art work. 

School leaders decided last week at an emergency school board meeting that they would close Summit Township Elementary School until further notice, Channel 11’s Amy Marcinkiewicz reported. An announcement about the closure, a Water Quality Testing Announcement and a Public Notice were posted on the school’s website following the meeting.


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Butler Area School District officials brought in an outside firm to investigate after the elementary school was closed for two days following the revelation of high lead levels. Students briefly returned to class after portable sinks with municipal water, as well as jugs of water for hand-washing and wiping down tables, were brought to the school.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection test results from last August showed high lead levels in the well water that supplies the elementary school. Some of the readings showed three times the acceptable levels of lead.

District leaders admitted at a school board meeting that they had known about the testing and the lead concerns despite having only told parents about them earlier this month. As a result, students in kindergarten through fourth grade drank the tainted water for four months.

Pettigrew, who was brought on to implement a corrective action plan, told Marcinkiewicz that the new test results showed the E. coli bacteria was in the well but not beyond the treatment system.

“In tests throughout the rest of the building, there was no E. coli. The chlorination had taken care of the water going into the school,” Pettigrew said.

Outside agencies investigating the contaminated water plan to fix the lead, copper and, now, E. coli issues. 

District officials were tight-lipped about how long Summit Township Elementary School may be at Broad Street Elementary School. 
 
“We're still dealing with lead and copper and E. coli. I have no idea when the kids might be able to get back to their home school. We need to make it safe and do it right,” Pettigrew said.
 
Many parents told Channel 11 News they’re wondering what caused the elevated lead levels and presence of E. coli, saying there is fracking all around the area. 
 
The Department of Environmental Protection addressed their concerns in a statement given to Channel 11 News on Tuesday, reading: “There does not appear to be a link between recent sample results from the school's water system and petroleum or natural gas activity."

 

 

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