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High lead levels found in water faucets at elementary school; parents upset over delayed notice

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BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. – High levels of lead recently discovered in Ordway Elementary School's sinks and drinking faucets has parents on edge and the district scrambling to fix the problem.

Nearly all of the water fountains at Ordway are wrapped in plastic, closed to kids and staff.

Now bottled water is being brought in for consumption, but many parents wonder why it took so long for the district to sound the alarm.

“It is freaking everybody out,” said one mom named Heidi who asked to not be identified by her last name.

The drinking fountains and sinks inside the school are now clearly labeled, reminding everyone that the water isn’t safe to drink.

“My daughter is a special-needs student there and she drinks lots of water there,” Heidi said, “She’s been there five years.”

The district said it first found out about elevated levels of lead in the water in December, when more than a dozen water fixtures showed levels above the threshold for corrective action.

But state law doesn’t require the district to alert parents.

After flushing the water and replacing the contaminated fixtures, somehow lead was found in 23 more fixtures; some had lead levels as high as 384-parts-per-billion, after new rounds of tests came back over the winter break.

“When we got multiple readings and elevated levels on Monday, and some which had initially met normal levels but now were testing at elevated levels, that suggested something broader might be going on,” said school district Superintendent Faith Chapel.

“I think it’s gotten bigger than it needs to be,” said Heidi. “If they’d have told people upfront instead of waiting...”

Some parents like Heidi wonder why the district didn’t alert parents about the problem in December; instead Bainbridge Island School District only told parents after the second round of testing.

Heidi asked her doctor to test her daughter’s blood for lead contamination.

“We’re going to get her tested to see if she has any lead showing up in her system,” she said.

Students and teachers now get their drinking water from bottled water stations throughout the school.

School officials promise to alert parents immediately if something like this comes up again.

“They should have done it in the first place,” said Heidi.

The district said it is working with county and state regulators to make sure kids are safe.

The district has also hired a private company to test the water supply to find out where the contamination might be originating.