CASHMERE — The use of 14 water faucets in Vale Elementary, Cashmere Middle School and Cashmere High School has been discontinued after four rounds of testing indicated elevated lead levels.
The Cashmere School District is currently developing a remediation plan for the sites.
“As soon as we got the elevated results, the results from the state... we ceased using those,” Superintendent Glenn Johnson said in an interview Tuesday morning.
The district received the test results Friday, Feb. 24.
According to a March 7 letter Johnson distributed to students, staff and families, the state Department of Health sampled 142 fixtures on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 at the three schools, as required under state law for buildings built or plumbing systems installed before 2016.
Initial results indicated seven samples at Vale, one at Cashmere Middle School and six at Cashmere High School had led levels above 5 parts per billion (ppb). The results require the district to now develop a school remediation action plan.
The state DOH recommends faucets that exceed 5 ppb are discontinued pending a remediation plan, while levels that exceed 15 are required to be discontinued pending a remediation plan.
According to Johnson’s letter, after receiving the positive test, the district contacted the city of Cashmere, which supplies water to Cashmere schools. According to Johnson, the city indicated regular tests show the city water supply meet safety requirements, and the result was likely not a source issue.
The district also contacted a consulting company, which conducted follow-up tests on Feb. 26.
Of the seven faucets that tested for elevated levels at Vale, six were discontinued pending additional testing and a water bottle filling station that tested at 13 ppb was not in use.
Johnson said some meal prep for the elementary school, like washing vegetables, is now done at the middle school
“It really didn’t change any kind of the drinking water situation at Vale,” Johnson said. “There’s no restrictions out for students accessing water where they normally drink, or that kind of thing. We don’t have to bring in bottled water.”
The faucets that tested for elevated lead levels included a kitchen sink, two steam kettles, a kitchen sprayer and sink, a bottle-filling station and a sink.
“We had one bottle filling station, that was in a classroom, but it was not in use,” Johnson said. “It was in a tech lab, and it was not in use.”
At Cashmere Middle School, a bottle filler that was tested by the DOH at 7 ppb was discontinued pending the results from additional tests.
In Cashmere High School, the faucets that tested for elevated lead levels include a water bottle filler, a kitchen sink, three locker room water fountains and two family and consumer science sinks.
A kitchen sink at CHS that tested at 15 ppb was discontinued in a 2018 remodel and was not used for food prep or consumption.
Johnson said the district has already installed new drinking fountains outside of the locker rooms prior to the elevated test results. The three water fountains in the locker room, each of which the State DOH tested at 10 ppb, will not be used again.
“We’re not retesting, we’re not re-piping,” Johnson said. “We have brand new water bottle fillers right outside of the locker room.”
The two family and consumer science sinks note were both recently installed. Additional testing on the sinks was conducted on March 3, and the results are pending.
Johnson said the two sinks are part of eight or nine recently installed sinks with the same water supply and piping, though the others did not test for elevated levels.
“It could indeed be the fixture itself during manufacturing,” Johnson said.
Per DOH guidelines, the district must develop a remediation plan within six months of the test results, though Johnson said the school district plans to act quicker.
“We’ve already got contractor’s bids so that if it is indeed isolated to the kitchen, and that kind of piping system, old piping, some kind of corrosion, our plan is to completely replace it,” Johnson said. “We do not think we have a building-wide issue, or we would feel like you would see elevated results in all of the other fixtures. We’re not seeing that.”
Johnson said the district will also provide further updates to parents and families regarding the positive tests, and said student safety is a top priority in the district.