Lead in water at 2 Tacoma schools as high as 150 times over EPA limit; year-old test results weren’t reviewed

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TACOMA, Wash. -- Sinks and drinking fountains are now off-limits after high levels of lead were discovered in the water at two Tacoma elementary schools.

The water quality tests were done voluntarily in May 2015 but nobody at the district reviewed the results until last Friday.

Both Reed Elementary and Mann Elementary buildings were tested at numerous locations. The Environmental Protection Agency requires any water quality test that surpasses 15 parts lead per billion be addressed. At Reed Elementary, 59 locations were tested for lead; results varied between 5 and 2,330 parts lead per billion.  At Mann Elementary, 68 locations were also tested for lead; results varied between 0 and 784 parts lead per billion.

“That’s scary,” said parent Erin Reynolds. “That’s scary to hear.”

Several parents shared serious concerns after learning Tacoma Public Schools did nothing when water quality tests were returned nearly one year ago.

“It’s concerning that my kids have been drinking lead the past year,” said Latoya Hermanson.

After Tacoma Water found elevated levels of lead in four homes last week, the Tacoma School District began reviewing records for lead tests.

On Friday, the district discovered tests for Reed and Mann elementary schools were done in 2015 but nobody reviewed the results.

“Going back through our records we discovered that 2 reports on tests taken in May of last year had come back with very, very high levels of lead in multiple locations in both Reed and Mann elementary school,” said Tacoma Schools spokesman Dan Vopel.

Inside both schools on Monday, sinks and faucets were wrapped and closed off for public use. The district brought in stacks of bottled water for kids and teachers while new water quality tests are being done.

Officials said not reviewing last year’s water quality tests is inexcusable and promise big changes.

“Complete audit of our testing monitoring, maintenance and communications around water quality” will be conducted, said Vopel.

Voelpel told The Associated Press that the district's safety and environmental health manager was placed on leave. Officials haven't said why the test results were not reviewed and shared with the public last year.

Parents are frustrated and wondering how water quality tests fell through the cracks, possibly exposing young children to a toxic water supply for months.

“I hope that the City of Tacoma can get their act together,” said Hermanson.

Tacoma Public Schools said it now plans to test the water at all 56 campuses district-wide.

New test results for both Mann and Reed elementary should return in a few days.

 

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