WENATCHEE — A round of testing for lead in drinking water is keeping plumbers busy in the Wenatchee School District.
By the end of the summer, more than 190 fixtures will be replaced with new certified lead-free versions.
The school district signed up to have the water fixtures tested at its elementary schools, Castle Rock Early Childhood Learning Center and Valley Academy, taking the state Department of Health up on an offer to provide free testing.
Letters were sent home to parents notifying them of the testing and next steps.
Fixtures that tested at 10 parts per billion and above were replaced immediately, said Diana Haglund, the district’s director of communications, and any fixtures that tested at 1 ppb and higher will be replaced this summer.
“This will result in a total replacement of over 190 fixtures total at Mission View, Lincoln, Columbia, Washington, Newbery, Lewis and Clark, Sunnyslope, Castle Rock and Valley Academy,” she said.
Wenatchee schools also were directed to start a program to flush water through all the fixtures as recommended by the state Department of Health.
The testing program was introduced after unsafe lead levels were found in drinking water in Tacoma schools. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive in May 2016 to the health department to help schools statewide test the water for lead, with a focus on elementary and preschools. Exposure to the heavy metal, commonly found in old paint and plumbing, can result in learning disabilities and behavioral problems. It is most easily absorbed by young children.
Of the 8,600 water fixtures tested statewide in 199 schools and preschools, 5 percent failed the federal threshold of 15 parts per billion and 61 percent were at or above one part per billion. The fixtures tested included drinking fountains, bottle fillers, classroom sinks and kitchen faucets.
The highest test result, 282 ppb, was found in one reading at a school in the Chehalis School District. A school in Auburn had 282 ppb and one in Spokane County had 220 ppb.
The test results for Wenatchee schools posted on the Department of Health website — wwrld.us/leadtest — show Mission View Elementary School had fixtures that tested at 21, 17 and 12 ppb. Lewis & Clark had a fixture with 15 ppb and Columbia had two that tested at 12 ppb.
The Department of Health recommends school districts replace fixtures found with more than 10 ppb and implement a program to flush water to help reduce lead levels on fixtures that tested between 2 and 9 ppb. The lead levels can build up when water sits for periods of time.
Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151