Number of Tacoma schools with lead in water grows to 11

originally posted on April 28, 2016


As crews in Tacoma dig up pipes at some homes Thursday, the number of Tacoma schools with lead contamination in their water has grown to 11.

Key Developments: 

  • Tests at schools were conducted nearly a year ago, but results weren’t reviewed by district until recently.
  • The Tacoma School District is now reviewing test results for the last three years.
  • The district says the problem isn’t the water itself but may be the faucets and fixtures at schools.
  • Tacoma Schools has placed an employee on paid administrative leave pending investigation for water quality testing and reporting.
  • The district shut off all water sources and handed out bottled water to students and staff members at the affected schools.
  • Samples were taken at Horace Mann and Jennie Reed schools Tuesday morning.
  • All schools in the district will be tested for lead contamination. Testing will take several weeks to complete.
  • High levels of lead in water at several Tacoma homes are attributed to lead gooseneck connectors between the water main and the house.

Since Monday, district officials found previously un-reviewed test results from nearly a year ago showed 11 schools have unacceptable levels of lead in their water.

The problems at the schools are believed to originate from faucets and fixtures.

Tacoma schools said the state Department of Health recommends a threshold of 20 parts per billion, but as an added safety measure, the district threshold for triggering action is  now 15 ppb for lead. The district’s prior testing protocol used a threshold of 20 ppb.

Using the new protocol, the district completed a new review of 2015 water test results for Birney, Browns Point, Larchmont, Point Defiance, and Whitman and elementary schools, and found from one to five additional fixtures at each school that tested just above the lower threshold.

Other elementary schools found to have high lead levels earlier this week are Whittier, Manitou Park, DeLong, Madison, Reed and Mann.

District officials say bottled water will be available at all affected schools until repairs can be made and the water is re-tested.

Whittier has closed its kitchen. Food preparation will be done at a nearby high school.

On Tuesday, the district  said it is conducting an “immediate, complete audit of all past water quality test results, testing procedures, maintenance practices and communications to ensure – moving forward – there is a much better system in place.”

Water tests from the last three years will be reviewed by the district.

A contractor took new samples at Mann and Reed Tuesday before school. Technicians collected samples from hundreds of locations from classrooms, water fountains, to kitchen areas. It is not yet known when the results  of those tests will be in.

Meanwhile, crews in Tacoma will continue digging to find lead gooseneck connectors at homes found to have high lead levels in their water.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that tap water in the three Lincoln District homes that triggered a regional lead scare last week is testing within safe levels following the replacement of service lines that included the short lead pipes.

Officials hope to test water at ten more homes where gooseneck connectors are believed to exist. So far, eight residents have consulted to the tests, the Tribune said.

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