Only a half-dozen people turned up Tuesday night at the Lucketts Community Center to hear from county and state officials about the center's lead-contaminated water.
But what the small group lacked in numbers it had in emotion.
Facing representatives from the Virginia Department of Health, the Loudoun County Health Department and the Loudoun County Sanitation Authority, and with Supervisor Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin) in the audience, parents of children who attend the community center's preschool angrily demanded to know why months passed before they were told of the contamination.
Along with the preschool, the center hosts thousands of people annually at bluegrass concerts and the Lucketts Fair.
Yet before last year, testing of the water for lead was not required by the state, said Todd Danielson of the sanitation authority.
Some in the audience at the 21/2-hour meeting shot pointed questions at the officials, then seemed dissatisfied with the answers.
By the end, there were calls for the nearly 100-year-old building to be tested for other toxins and for the county to implement aggressive lead-abatement measures. County officials called the latter action a last resort.
Some of the residents said after the meeting that although they had come looking for answers, they left with even more questions.
"Sitting here made me more concerned than I was when I came here," said Marielle D'Errico of Waterford, whose 4-year-old twins have attended the preschool since last winter.
"I was debating in the doctor's office last week whether I should get my kids tested [for lead poisoning]. Now I think I will."
Tests in June revealed an unsafe level of lead in the water at a tap used for hand washing and at two other locations. The test result was not publicized, however, until late October.
Officials noted Tuesday that more recent water tests have shown a lower, but still elevated, level of lead from the same tap. Nowhere else in the center was an unsafe level of lead found in the water.
Prolonged lead exposure is particularly harmful to toddlers. It can cause brain damage and death, but David Goodfriend, director of the county health department, played down that threat Tuesday.
"Based on the results I've seen, I wouldn't test my own kids. But if it's reassuring, I would encourage parents to meet with their pediatrician," he said.
Don McGarry, public works chief at the county's general services department, said the county will test the center's water fountains and remove from service any that do not meet state lead standards.
Some parents expressed frustration with the county's refusal to take more aggressive action.
"It definitely answered some of my questions, but not all of them," said Tammy Acup, whose 11-year-old daughter has attended after-school activities at the center for four years. "We're heading in the right direction. They're trying to keep our kids safe, which is the only thing you can ask for, [but] what's acceptable to the county isn't always acceptable to a family."
Given the remaining questions, officials proposed holding another public meeting early next month.