Sunset, Willamette Primary drinking water tests indicate elevated levels of lead
by Andrew Kilstrom, originally posted on July 15, 2016
Testing results of drinking water at both Sunset Primary and Willamette Primary have indicated elevated levels of lead — four of 70 water sources at Sunset and two of 78 sources at Willamette. The results for Sunset’s testing were announced by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District Friday, July 15 and for Willamette Monday, July 18 in a press release.
Superintendent Kathy Ludwig said the district started with its older schools, with Sunset, Willamette and Bolton being three of those buildings, knowing they were more likely to show elevated levels. She added that the district will test all schools, however, regardless of age.
“We’re going to make sure that everything is safe for children and staff, wherever we are in the process of mitigation,” she said. “Right now our steps are to take care of whatever the water situation is. If it’s the faucet that’s the problem we’ll replace that, if it’s the bubler we’ll replace that, and then we’ll continue to retest to make sure the problem is solved. If there’s pipeline that’s at fault then we’ll replace that. We’ll do extensive testing and if at some point we need to fully close to do major work we’ll do that.”
The district doesn’t routinely tested for lead, instead relying on the city’s regular water quality monitoring, but decided to test for lead and copper independently in early June.
“The District complies with all requirements and protocols for testing water, however, testing individual schools for lead has not been a requirement for Oregon Public Schools and the District has not conducted comprehensive lead testing of all schools in the past,” stated Operations Director Tim Woodley. At Sunset the four test locations included a workroom sink, two classroom sinks and one drinking fountain located at the base of the staircase next to the cafeteria.
Tests for Bolton Primary came back Tuesday, July 19 and were negative for lead at all 71 water sources.
The Sunset test, conducted by Pixis Labs on June 23, tested for lead and copper. The four locations produced lead results of 21.5 ppb (parts per billion), 28.4 ppb, 41.9 ppb and 166 ppb — exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) maximum contaminant level of 20 ppb, which the EPA determines to be “the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety.”
It is unclear which test was from the Sunset drinking fountain.
According to Mark Leed of Pixis Labs the samples were first draw samples. “If the water is run through the day it would get somewhat lower than that,” he said.
The two problematic water sources at Willamette, meanwhile, were at “a bubbler in a classroom sink and a sink in a restroom,” with levels of 181 ppb and 38.6 ppb.
According to the EPA, even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia. Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead because physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels than adults.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter or more, and according to the EPA’s website “EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. … If the level of lead in a child’s blood is at or above the CDC action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources.”
WL-WV is in the process of building a new Sunset Primary, but students will remain in the current building for one more school year until its completion.
The district will continue testing WL-WV schools throughout the summer, and expects results by mid-August.