Blaine School District is testing water fixtures for lead

By Oliver Lazenby

After replacing 12 faucets that tested higher than allowable threshold for lead last year, the Blaine School District is
continuing to identify and replace fixtures that don’t meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

District superintendent Ron Spanjer updated the school board on the process at its July 30 meeting.  The district is waiting on results from lead testing at Blaine Primary School, and if any fixtures test above its threshold, they’ll be replaced within days, Spanjer said. The district doesn’t know when it will get test results.

The Washington State Department of Health tested all the fixtures at Blaine elementary in March 2018, and in April the district replaced two sink faucets with lead levels over the EPA’s recommended replacement threshold of 20 parts per billion.

The classroom faucets that were replaced had lead levels of 23 and 20 parts per billion. The district replaced an additional 10 faucets with lead levels over 10 parts per billion.

“Replacing faucets all the way down to 10 parts per billion is an extra step we’re committed to taking,” Spanjer said at the
meeting.

Spanjer noted that only faucets needed to be replaced. Samples found five or less parts per billion of lead in all but one elementary school drinking fountain, and most drinking fountains had less than 1 part per billion, according to the health department.

The state also tested Point Roberts Primary School earlier this year and all fixtures tested below 10 parts per billion, Spanjer said.

State lawmakers passed funding to test for lead in public school drinking water in 2017, after two elementary schools in Tacoma found fixtures with lead levels way over the EPA’s threshold – up to hundreds or even thousands of parts per billion.

The state funding isn’t enough to cover all state public schools, and the district is waiting to see if the state will test Blaine Middle School this year. If it doesn’t, the district had budgeted to pay for the testing on its own.

The school district did its own “selective testing“ at all district schools in 2016, Spanjer said. Those tests focused on drinking fountains and faucets in cooking areas and all the fixtures sampled had less than 10 parts per billion of lead, he said.

Childhood lead exposure increases risks for hearing, speech, learning and behavior problems; brain and nervous system damage; and slowed growth and development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Lead typically leaches into water from plumbing, rather than directly from the water source, according to the CDC. Deteriorating lead-based paint, which was used until 1978, is the most hazardous source of lead for U.S. children, according to the CDC’s website.

Results from testing at Blaine Elementary School are available online at bit.ly/2Ke9eUx.

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