Jul 22, 2004

Long-Term Testing of School Water Proposed

Two schools in the Peninsula School District west of Tacoma, Wash. were found to have lead levels that exceeded the recommended federal levels for public water systems.
As a result, Seattle School Board committee discussed a draft proposal that would commit the district to long-term water testing, notifying parents of results and appointing an oversight committee, The Seattle Times reported.
If approved, the proposal would require water from school drinking fountains contains no more than 20 parts per billion (ppb) of lead and school drinking water will also be required to meet Seattle Public Utilities' standards for iron, zinc, turbidity and color.
Schools which fountains do not meet health and aesthetic standards would be taken out of service and be given bottled water. The district has allocated $400,000 in next year's budget for supplying bottled water to 60 schools, according to The Seattle Times.
Water quality testing results, which the district started releasing back in April showed that 62 of 94 buildings had two or more fountains with water that, after standing for at least six hours, contained more than 20 ppb of lead. About 3 percent of fountains that were flushed for 30 seconds still showed lead levels more than 20 ppb.
Board member Sally Soriano, chairwoman of the policy and legislative committee said that the proposed procedures will give parents confidence in the drinking water of public schools. According to her, the proposal–modeled on a Minnesota policy–likely will be introduced at an Aug. 18 public hearing, with the board to vote on it Sept. 1.
At this point experts say it is unlikely any child has been harmed by Seattle school water.
Last week, the King County Board of Health recommended that the county's 18 school districts outside Seattle test drinking water in older schools, something schools across the country are confronting. Schools aren't required to test water under federal law, The Seattle Times reported.
A 1990s campaign to "Get the Lead Out" led to a 1992 Seattle schools water testing–since then the public attention to the issue has faded.
Ron English, the district's water-quality project manager, said under the proposal all fountains could be retested every three years, following a schedule public water suppliers keep in monitoring lead and copper levels in tap water. English didn't give an estimate of how much the plan will cost; however, he said it could take three years for all the fountains to be fixed.
Test results will allow the district to manage each school water problem individually.
The district will replace all water pipes at Fairmount Park, Mann, Schmitz Park and Wedgwood schools this summer–more than a decade after a consultant told the district it should do so, The Seattle Times reported.
By Nov. 1, under the draft proposal, the board would appoint up to seven members to serve on a Water Quality Oversight Committee. The committee, which will consist of water-quality health experts, parents and administrators would report to the board at least twice a year.