December 11, 2016
I want to update you about lead testing in our schools’ water sources. Following the news from Portland Public that revealed levels of lead that exceeded EPA standards in a few of their aging school buildings last spring, we opted to begin testing for lead in our buildings. In June of 2016 random water samples were collected from every district facility and tested for lead—none of the random samples collected in June exceeded EPA standards for lead. Copies of the results were provided to the Mail Tribune and links to the actual reports, by building, were posted on the District’s website and FaceBook.
Under current law, all of our school buildings, with the exception of Sams Valley Elementary, are exempt from mandatory water testing because they are served by city water systems. The laws are based on the fact that municipal water systems test the water prior to distribution to the community, including the schools. In Sams Valley, where water is from a well, water samples are analyzed weekly for chlorine and every three years for lead.
In the last few months, the Oregon Legislature and the Oregon Health Authority have released recommendations for lead testing of water systems. One of these recommendations suggests that in order to identify sources of lead, schools should test all taps used in schools for drinking or food preparation. While this was only a recommendation, and our initial, random, tests revealed no issues with lead, I felt that a voluntary test of all taps used in our schools for drinking, food preparation, and potential consumption was again, a good idea (our buildings, including the plumbing, are aging). Therefore, our maintenance staff collected samples from 790 water sources in our buildings.
Results of this second-round of testing are now in and are posted by building, below. Results continue to demonstrate that overall, our drinking water is safe. However, results also revelaed that 6% of water sources within the district have lead levels which exceed the EPA limits. Only one of those sources was a drinking fountain—the majority were restroom faucets. These taps, if used for drinking or food preparation, were shut off immediately. Taps where shutoff is not possible have tagged clearly with an explanation that they are not to be used for drinking or food preparation. Remedies to correct this issue may include replacement of fixtures, the addition of filters, and/or other plumbing projects. Alternative sources of water may be supplied if plumbing work cannot be completed in time for school.
Our commitment is that no person will be allowed to drink or prepare food with water from fixtures that are found to exceed EPA standards or are unsafe. I will continue to keep you updated as we work to correct the few sources within the district which require attention. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns related to this issue.