Fountains with lead identified and removed, will be replaced

Drinking fountains at 13 schools and one support facility in the Beaverton School District contain excessive lead, according to a report released by the district Monday with test results for 23 schools and three support facilities.

Over the summer, more than 6,000 samples were taken at all of the district’s schools and facilities. Multiple samples were collected from all drinking fountains and nearly two-thirds of the results are forthcoming. Further results will be released on a weekly basis.

So far, the district has released results for 2,244 samples collected at 1,122 fountains across the district. Of those, 100 samples contained lead above the action level of 15 parts per billion or higher set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for municipal water suppliers.

The first batch of results prioritized reporting levels for older schools with a greater potential to have high lead levels in their aging pipes. Lead was found in drinking water facilities everywhere from classrooms to hallways to portables.

At Highland Park Middle School, 31 samples contained excessive lead. Highland Park’s water system is set to undergo replacement during the summer of 2017. As scheduled before testing, the school will remain on bottled water through the 2016-17 school year.

Two samples at Whitford Middle School and one sample at Conestoga Middle School contained excessive amounts of lead.

Like Highland Park, Hazeldale Elementary School students will also be switching to bottled water this school year. Sixteen collected samples at the school contained a concerning amount of lead. At least one sample contained 139 parts per billion of lead.

Because Hazeldale is set to be rebuilt during the 2017-18 school year, the district has decided to provide students with bottled water this year, rather than replacing the fountains.AUGUST 15 REPORT - Schools tested that are in the clear and don't have fountains with actionable amounts of lead include Cedar Mill Elementary, Fir Grove Elementary, Greenway Elementary, Raleigh Park Elementary, Ridgewood Elementary, West Tualatin View Elementary, Beaverton High, Five Oaks Middle, Mountain View Middle, and ACMA.

The initial delivery and first month of bottled water at Highland Park cost $3,337. At Hazeldale, the initial costs were $1,094.

Lead was found at six other elementary schools, including Vose Elementary School, which will be rebuilt this school year, and Beaver Acres Elementary School, where 14 samples containing excessive lead were collected.

In the results released so far, the highest amount of lead in an individual sample was found at Errol Hassell Elementary School, where a sample was collected containing 190 parts per billion of lead.

Beaverton High School, the only high school with results released this week, was clear of lead — nothing was found close to the actionable level.

Water faucets with actionable levels have been shut off. Faucets will be replaced by the beginning of the school year in September and will undergo follow-up testing in coming months.

This is the most comprehensive lead testing the district has done, said Maureen Wheeler, the district’s public communications officer. Before this year, the last record of comprehensive testing for lead levels dates back to 1989.

Because the state of Oregon has not required school districts to test for lead, it’s a fairly new concern, said Wheeler.

With water contamination in Flint, Mich., and locally at Portland Public Schools dominating headlines, the district decided to undertake a thorough sampling of all its drinking fountains.

“We have a good baseline now,” said Wheeler,

The district began investigating the issue after a student at Highland Park raised concerns about “yellowish-brown” drinking water, said Wheeler. Initial lead testing found that aging, rusty pipes were contaminating the fountain with lead.

Wheeler said that bond measures have funded ongoing maintenance upkeep, resulting in repairs and a number of rebuilds of older school.

“We know families have concerns and we’re addressing them,” said Wheeler.