News

Okay to drink the water again at two questioned schools

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Two Federal Way schools have gone back to using their own water after tests revealed lead and copper levels were within the school district’s limits.

The district has also implemented a water-testing policy to monitor lead and copper in the buildings’ pipes and faucets.

Brigadoon Elementary School went back to using tap water after a third round of tests determined lead was below the district’s limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb). This is the same level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health require of water suppliers.

Kilo Middle School initially had a copper level at 1.4 micrograms per liter (mg/L). The limit is 1.3 mg/L.

The new policy directs the district’s superintendent to get a recommendation on schools that should be tested from the facilities department, according to facilities manager Rod Leland. Some schools will have annual tests because previous tests have shown they might have rising lead levels.

Newer buildings and those with newer plumbing systems will get tested randomly. Each school will have tests taken from a sample of water faucets and drinking fountains.

The lead level limit remains at 15 ppb.

The new policy stems from water tests done last year.

Kilo, Brigadoon and Nautilus Elementary School were placed on bottled water after the district tested for lead and copper in the water of several schools. District officials decided to test after Seattle Public Schools had to go through an extensive repair program for several of its schools when water tests showed high lead levels in some schools.

The three Federal Way schools were the only ones with lead levels higher than the district allowed. Brigadoon and Nautilus were at 17 and 16 ppb, respectively.

It was believed by officials that standing water in the lines was causing corrosion and building up concentrations of the lead and copper.

District maintenance staff changed the faucets on the two schools with high lead levels. At Kilo, the main water line - made of copper - was flushed and a copper tube running to a water fountain was replaced.

Subsequent tests revealed this was the correct approach, Leland said.

All of the tests and replacement parts cost about $20,000.

Seattle Public Schools passed a water testing policy with a lead level limit at 10 ppb. There was also proposed legislation in Olympia that would have authorized the state Board of Health to require districts have lead levels not exceed 10 ppb. Both the Senate and House proposals didn’t make it out of committee.

The EPA recommends schools have a maximum of 20 ppb in the water lines. However, the EPA and state Department of Health do not have enforcement powers over school districts. They police themselves.

Leland did not support the proposed legislation saying the 10 ppb was not backed by scientific study.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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