Total coliform bacteria was found in the well water at J.W. Seabrook Classical Studies School. Total coliform occurs naturally in the soil, but it can indicate other harmful bacteria that may be in the ground.
Cumberland County Schools officials said the school's well was being worked on in August. When the work was completed, the water was tested, and increased levels of coliform bacteria were detected.
Principal Donna Parnell said the first lab test a week ago returned negative for coliform, but when the second test came back positive Thursday, she sent a letter home to parents.
Signs were posted at the school on Aug. 25 to notify parents. Officials also bagged all of the school's water fountains and placed water coolers nearby. The water to the restroom sinks has been turned off, and students are using hand sanitizers and towelettes to clean their hands.
"We don't think that the water that is coming into the building is posing a health threat," district spokeswoman Wanda McPhaul said. "The samples that were tested were raw water samples that were coming directly out of the well."
The school treats the well water before anyone comes into contact with it, she said.
No students or faculty have reported any illnesses, and the school continues to operate on a normal schedule.
"It's perfectly safe for the children to be at school. Everything has been taken care of, and it was last week," said Jane Stevens, of the Cumberland County Health Department.
Crews have been chlorinating the water on the weekends to clear the problem.
Two consecutive water samples must come back negative before officials will give the school the all-clear. Officials said they hope those test results will be back by the end of the week.
But Diane Latting said she wasn't taking any chances. She picked up her daughter, Michaela, from the school Tuesday and said she's not coming back to class until the bacteria has been cleaned up.
"I worked in a lab for 12 years. A germ is a germ, and if you can't wash your hands after you use the bathroom, that's not safe for anybody," Latting said.