Gordon Brothers Water, at 776 N. Ellsworth Ave., Salem, completed work on its first school district water system with lead-health related issues recently. It was contracted by the Howland Local School District last year to help fix its system after tests revealed higher than acceptable amounts of lead in its water. Howland Superintendent Kevin Spicher and Chris Morrone III, PE, with CJL Engineering in Youngstown, teamed with Gordon Brothers to put the water issue in order at a fraction of contractor cost estimates. Pictured are the principals in Gordon Brothers Water, with Ned Jones, left, his wife Carol and their son, Scott. They are shown with a Kinetico Commercial Reverse Osmosis System similar to two units that Gordon Brothers installed in the Howland School District, one in the high school and one in the middle school. Gordon Brothers is celebrating 73 years in business this year. (Salem News photo by Larry Shields)
SALEM– The Howland Local School District had to fix old water lines after unacceptable levels of lead were found in test samples in April of 2016.
Superintendent Kevin Spicher immediately shut down the kitchens and drinking fountains in the six buildings used by some 2,600 students and 330 staff members. He moved quickly to set things in order. The high school is about 80 years old and the five other buildings are 40 to 50 years old.
School Treasurer Rhonda Amorganos said, “During the time the fountains were shut down we had coolers brought in.”As the district came to grips with the problem, facility operations Supervisor Keith Spicher spoke to Chris J. Morrone III, PE, and a partner at CJL Engineering’s Youngstown office. Another concern quickly followed when, Keith Spicher said, “walk-through” contractor estimates soared to $250,000 to bypass the lead pipes.“Jaw-dropping,” he said.
Morrone got to work and Gordon Brothers was one of three recommendations he made to the Howland administration and school board. Keith Spicher said, “They seemed to be the best option.”Ned Jones and his son, Scott Jones, co-owners in Salem’s family business known for its “We Fix Water”slogan, entered the picture.“ At first I thought it was impossible,” Ned Jones said, “but Chris Morrone engineered the work around the existing plumbing … he was a genius, he drew up the engineering plans.” Keith Spicher said, “The engineer ran the PEX system piping through ceilings and walls and wherever you could get them.” The PEX is a system of cross-linked polyethylene tubing that replaces old copper and lead lines and, according to www.pex.com, offers a number of advantages over other replacements.
The company said, “It is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine, doesn’t corrode or develop pinholes, is faster to install than metal or rigid plastic, and has fewer connections and fittings.” Keith Spicher said they used thousands of feet of the tubing in the six buildings with the assistance of some maintenance staff who were versed in the special application. PEX, he said, is easy to run and “not too intrusive.” Amorganos said the district was qualified to receive a reimbursed “lead grant” of up to $15,000 per building from the Ohio School Facilities Construction Commission. That would reimburse the district for $90,000 for the six buildings, not even close to the estimates.“ We could have received that,” Amorganos said, but by using in-house maintenance staff the district knocked it all the way down to $17,475, or 7 percent of the estimates.Keith Spicher said, “The prices at the beginning were $250,000. It’s amazing to me we could whittle it down to $17,475 for the whole district.”
Morrone engineered the idea of bypassing every original pipe and to provide state-of-the-art filtering along with reverse osmosis systems. The OSFCC money paid for all the materials and equipment, Amorganos said.Anytime an engineer can turn quarter-million dollar estimates into a total project cost of $17,475, you’re getting a magician in the deal. Gordon Brothers provided two National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified reverse osmosis systems at two point-of-use locations, and additional carbon filtration units at about four point-of-use locations per building. Scott Jones said, “A contaminant in water is something other than water.” Ned Jones said, “Lead has an adverse effect on a child’s mental and physical development” and Scott Jones added that’s why “the point-of-use is key, it’s at the end … lead is water soluble at entry and at the end the filter picks it up.” This was the first school district Gordon Brothers worked with “in terms of health and lead issues,” Scott Jones said, adding, “the huge added benefit is better tasting water” and his father added, “it gets you to drink more water.”
Ned Jones said, “They had a lead problem and decided to be proactive about it … (but) this is the tip of the iceberg. This is the first school in the area to solve the lead problem.” Scott Jones said, “We don’t want to get away from the fact we’re helping people.” Keith Spicher added that along with being the best option, Morrone gave Gordon Brothers “an excellent recommendation regarding the point-of-use filters and the reverse osmosis and all the other filtering.” The reverse osmosis systems were installed in the high school and middle school, he said. Amorganos said, “It was a pretty big project” and Spicher said that with two maintenance staff members, it took about six weeks last summer to complete all six buildings. At the beginning of the school year last August, Superintendent Kevin Spicher welcomed students back by noting, “Our students and staff are returning to filtered drinking water in all buildings to ensure water consumed is purified and safe!“ We have teamed up with local engineers, water municipalities, and local water filtration entities to assist in this important project.”Ned Jones said as buildings age, “We expect this to continue because of the age of the schools and the economics of replacing old lines.”
For more information visit Gordon Brothers at firstname.lastname@example.org and CJL Engineering at www.cjlengineering.com.