Eatonville, Bethel school districts named in study testing lead in students' drinking water
The Eatonville School District is one of a few in Pierce County that tested positive for elevated levels of lead in the drinking water, according to a report released Wednesday, Feb. 20, by Environment Washington.
Other districts include Bethel, Tacoma, White River, Clover Park, Steilacoom and Lakewood.
The Eatonville School District tested three elementary schools for lead in the drinking water at the end of 2018.
“Samples of all taps and drinking fountains that could potentially be utilized by students and staff for consumption were tested at Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy (CCA), Eatonville Elementary School (EES) and Weyerhaeuser Elementary School (WES),” stated Superintendent Krestin Bahr in a January letter to parents. "Of the 114 fixtures tested between the three schools, the results indicated that 'three fixtures at CCA, zero fixtures at EES and one fixture at WES had lead levels above 20 parts per billion (ppb), which is above the federal guidelines."
Lead poisoning has been shown to cause serious harm to the body – particularly for children six and under who are most susceptible to its effects. As listed on the Department of Health’s website, these include:
- Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems.
- Slowed growth
The site also stated, “in rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.”
Environment Washington's study shows testing at 199 schools in the state. Among those, 97 percent of the schools had levels at 1 ppb or greater.
The Bethel School District tested 13 schools. Out of those 13, seven had levels less than 15 ppb for all the water fixtures and only one school had levels at less than 1 ppb for all the tested fixtures.
The highest levels were found at Naches Trail Elementary in August, where a boiler tested at 8,509 ppb lead level. The district said the water heater was an "anomaly" and a recent test in November showed the boiler had a level of 17 ppb.
The study showed that 40 percent of the Washington schools tested had lead contaminants in the 4 -5 ppb.
“We can now confirm that lead in school drinking water is a serious problem in Washington, and a public health crisis that we need to address,” stated Bruce Speight, Environment Washington Director, in the Environment Washington news release. “The state of Washington needs to act now to protect our kids from this dangerous neurotoxin.”
Environment Washington suggests the state and school districts should:
- Proactively get the lead out of schools by removing lead service lines and other lead-bearing parts of schools’ water systems.
- Install and maintain filters certified to remove lead on taps and fountains used for cooking or drinking.
- Adopt a 1 ppb limit for lead in schools’ drinking water as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and immediately remove from service any taps where testing indicates lead in excess of this level.
- Require testing at all water outlets annually using protocols designed to capture worst-case lead exposure.
- Disclose all specific test results and plans for remediation and provide funding to ensure schools have the resources to take the steps outlined above.