TACOMA, Wash. -- Higher than expected levels of lead have been found inside four more Tacoma elementary schools.
The district’s safety and environmental health manager is now on paid leave while officials figure out why nobody shared lead level test results for nearly a year.
Tacoma Public Schools has ordered new rounds of water quality tests, and in some schools it is shipping in bottled water for drinking and cooking.
Officials said they would also replace certain water pipes and fixtures in an attempt to remove contamination sources.
“There’s children’s lives at hand,” said DeLong Elementary School parent Brandi Green. “It’s not something that can just be blown over.”
But for at least six Tacoma public schools, some parents said that is exactly what happened when district officials revealed water lead tests done in 2015 were not reviewed for nearly a year.
“We’re still investigating what occurred with the reports and how they could be overlooked,” said school district spokesman Dan Voelpel.
On Monday, the district closed off access to sinks and drinking fountains at Mann and Reed elementary schools after discovering high levels of lead on both campuses.
In some areas, lead contamination levels were discovered at up to 150 times above the federal guidelines.
But on Tuesday, the district revealed four more schools were also showing lead contamination -- Madison Early Learning Center and DeLong, Whittier and Manitou Park elementary schools. Several faucets and sinks inside those buildings are now also off limits.
Contractors pulled new water samples from dozens of fixtures in both Mann and Reed elementary schools on Tuesday morning.
But some parents only found out about the expanded list of contaminated schools when they took their children to class.
Parents are frustrated their kids were possibly allowed to drink toxic water. But they’re even more concerned the problem could have been prevented had someone looked at the year-old test results.
“It’s ridiculous that somebody let the ball drop on a serious situation like this,” said Green.
Tacoma Public Schools also plans to get new lead testing done at all 56 of their facilities; it’s a process that could take several weeks.