- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Ten schools in Oregon had water samples that tested above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead limit at some point since 2013, according to an Associated Press analysis of test results reported to the agency.

School officials say they’ve responded to protect children’s health, with some turning to bottled water and filtering.

More than 60 water systems in Oregon, Idaho and Washington have reported samples above federal lead limits during the last three years, according to the data.

Nationally, nearly 1,400 water systems serving 3.6 million Americans have exceeded the federal standard at least once between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015. The affected systems are large and small, public and private, and include 278 that are owned and operated by schools and day care centers in 41 states.

In Oregon, about 1,100 people, mostly students, are served by the 10 water systems serving schools that recorded lead levels above 15 parts per billion, four of them multiple times. While no amount of lead exposure is considered safe, the rule calls for water systems to keep levels below 15 parts per billion.

At Kidco Head Start in Sunnsyde, a sink in a 1930s-era building tested above the limit in 2013. The school cut off access and switched to bottled water.

“As soon as we found out about it we took action and are continuing to take action,” said Stephany Koehne, executive director of Kids and Company.

The school switched to containers filled at a kitchen sink with water that shows no lead contamination, and that’s the water offered to students, she said.

The school also replaced fixtures on the sink, but it had readings of 86 in the second half of 2014 and 85 in the second half of 2015, Koehne said. The school replaced the pipes under the sink during spring break and is awaiting results on the next test.

Another school dealing with an older building is the Corvallis Waldorf School in Corvallis. The 1960s building has a history of testing over the limit. Director Peter Zaremba said the school purchased the building in 2013 and was aware of the high lead tests.

“We’ve always served bottled water,” he said.

Even though the two most recent test samples were below 15 parts per billion, the small, independent school plans to stay with bottled water, he said, which costs about $500 a month. Work is being done to upgrade the water system in the building.

At Eddyville Charter School in Eddyville, the school had a sample test of 21 parts per billion in 2011. In 2013, samples came in at 23 and 19, and in early 2014, a sample was 31. Two samples below 15 parts per billion were recorded in late 2014 and early 2015 - 8 and 5 respectively.

Willowcreek Elementary in Vale had readings of 30.6 and 15.9 in 2015.

In Oregon, 37 water systems reported samples in the last three years that exceeded the federal limit. Those include the Tualatin Valley Water District in Beaverton with about 200,000 people, and the Portland Water Bureau that reports about a million customers. But the Portland Water Bureau in an email to The Associated Press said the city doesn’t have lead service lines and customers are being exposed in high-risk homes - those with plumbing installed between 1970 and 1985.



Twenty-two water systems in Idaho have had tests above 15 parts per billion at some point since 2013.

Federal officials say three have recent water samples above the lead limit.

Alzar School, a college prep school for high achievers in Cascade, had a sample of 27.5 parts per billion at a handwashing sink in a boys’ bathroom in the first half of 2015.

“All of our water comes from one well, and it was only detected at one site,” said Sean Bierle, head of school.

The faucet was identified as the likely source, he said, and was replaced. A test in the second half of 2015 at the same sink found 13 parts per billion.

He said tests in other areas of the campus haven’t found any lead contamination, and the school is following federal regulations on the sink that had the high test.

At Emmett Head Start in southwest Idaho, a high reading in 2013 was blamed on water sitting in pipes for months.

Heidi Caldwell, executive director of Western Idaho Community Action Partnership, said sample tests have since come down.

“We absolutely feel confident that the water is safe, but we even go beyond that by filtering water and providing bottled water for drinking,” Caldwell said.

At Jefferson Alternative High School in Menan in eastern Idaho, occasional high lead samples have popped up with a 59 parts per billion reading in the first half of 2015. The school in the second half of 2015 had a sample test at 10.5.



A total of eight water systems in Washington have reported samples above 15 parts per billion since 2013, including the Washington State Patrol Academy.

In 2012, tests found lead in the academy’s water with a sample showing 91 parts per billion. Two samples in 2013 came in at 17. A sample in 2014 was down to 4 parts per billion.

“Once we learned of the lead we shut off all the drinking fountains and brought in bottled water,” said Kyle Moore, a Washington State Police spokesman. “We’re in the process of moving from a well-based system to a city water system.”

Only one school for children reported high test samples. At Rainier Christian Schools in Covington, a sample tested at 24 parts per billion in 2011. High readings followed in 2013 before a test in late 2013 and another in the first part of 2014 went below 15 parts per billion.

The other waters systems with samples above the rule include the Olympia Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Olympia, a federal ecological research facility, and Naval Magazine Indian Island, a U.S. Navy facility that supplies combat ships with munitions and services missile submarines.

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