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Elevated Lead Levels Found In 4 Additional Buildings In Tacoma School District

Tacoma Public Schools
A technician from Orion Environmental Services testing for lead. The district hired the Federal Way company to test Mann and Reed elementaty schools after it was revealed that tests from May 2015 showed high levels of lead in the drinking water.


The Tacoma School District says tests from last year reveal that three additional elementary schools and one other building that houses a Head Start program, have high lead levels. This follows the news from Monday that two other schools have lead in the water.


The three new elementary schools are: Whittier, DeLong and Manitou Park. Parents received phone calls and emails telling them that the water in these buildings is unsafe to drink or use for cooking due to elevated levels of lead.


Families who have young children enrolled in Head Start at the district’s Madison Building were also notified.


This news comes after the district informed parents at Mann and Reed Elementary Schools that the drinking water at those locations was found to be unsafe. At Reed, some water sources had lead levels more than 150 times higher than the point where the Environmental Protection Agency says action should be taken.  


The district has had this information in its possession for almost a year, yet it’s only now being reviewed.


Elle Warmuth, a spokeswoman for the district, says the person who was in charge of sharing the results, but failed to do so, is now on paid administrative leave.


“The process is still under investigation as at why these [results] weren't discovered earlier. We are hopeful we will provide a more thorough process in the future after discovering these reports from last year,“ Warmuth said.


District officials decided to look over the test results from May 2015 when reports came out last week that some older homes in Tacoma tested positive for lead in their drinking water.


Debbie Winskill, a school board member, said Tacoma School Superintendent Carla Santorno will likely address the issue at the school board meeting Thursday night.


“I just know that people are nervous and we’ve got that bottled water in and I hope we solve this problem — that people trust the schools after this because our children are precious and we just have to do a good job of making sure they are safe,” said Winskill.


Bottled water is being provided to all affected schools and a link to the information about test results that are known thus far is on the district’s website.


Meanwhile, the Seattle School District has been fielding questions about its lead testing program. In 2004, a number of buildings in the district were found to have elevated levels of lead. In response to the problem, Seattle Public Schools set up new safety protocols for drinking water.

"The program was established by the school board, which adopted a drinking-water policy in 2004. It includes periodic testing of each drinking water source in each school, coupled with reporting of the results on the district website,” said District Spokeswoman Stacey Howard in a released statement.

There is a state law mandating school districts to test for lead. However, it can not be implemented until there is funding.





Jennifer Wing is a Producer for our weekly show, Sound Effect.
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