‘Higher than acceptable’ levels of lead discovered in water at 4 more Tacoma schools

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TACOMA -- A team reviewing water testing records uncovered higher than acceptable levels of lead at several "isolated locations" in four additional Tacoma schools.

Tacoma Public Schools announced the discovery on Tuesday, saying the test results were from May of 2015 but not reviewed until now.

Just a day earlier, the district said sinks and drinking fountains are now off-limits at Reed Elementary and Mann Elementary.

The district released the results of the 2015 testing at these four additional schools:

  • At Madison site, 60 water sources were tested. Of those, 3 isolated locations tested higher than the acceptable level of lead.
  • At DeLong Elementary School, 116 water sources were tested. Of those 7 isolated locations tested higher than the acceptable level of lead.
  • At Whittier Elementary School, 53 water sources were tested. Of those 2 isolated locations tested higher than the acceptable level of lead.
  • At Manitou Park Elementary School, 76 water sources were tested. Of those 4 isolated locations tested higher than the acceptable level of lead.

"At this time, it does not appear that any steps were taken to correct the problems at those locations," the district wrote in an online update. "The vast majority of water at those locations showed no problems."

Officials have restricted access to the "isolated locations" and ordered bottled water for students and staff until the district can determine the water quality and fix any issues.

The district plans to test water quality at all schools in Tacoma. They've already begun the process and administrators say it will take several weeks to complete.

"In addition, under the leadership of our Chief Operations Officer and our Assistant Superintendent for K-12 Support, for the safety of our students and staff members, the district 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."

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.

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.

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