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Lead found at 21 Beaverton schools

Updated lead report released last week; more results forthcoming

TIMES FILE PHOTO - The discovery of elevated levels of lead in the water at Beaverton's Highland Park Middle School kicked off a process in the Beaverton School District that has revealed similar problems at several other local schools.As of Friday, excessive amounts of lead have been found at 21 schools — including Sunset High School — and three support facilities in the district.

Last week, the Beaverton School District released a second batch of lead testing results, containing updated numbers for elementary, middle and high schools across the district.

At Sunset, five samples taken from drinking fountains contained lead levels above the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the updated report.

No excessive lead was found at Aloha or Beaverton high schools. Results for Westview and Southridge high schools have yet to be released.

So far, the district has released results for 40 schools and five support facilities; additional results are expected to be released this month.

Over the summer, more than 6,000 samples were taken at all of the district’s schools and facilities. Multiple samples were collected from all drinking fountains.

So far, the district has released results for 3,862 samples collected at 1,931 fountains across the district. Of those, 193 samples — about 5 percent — contained lead above the action level of 15 parts per billion or higher set by the EPA for municipal water suppliers.

Lead was found in drinking water facilities everywhere from classrooms to hallways to portable buildings. Water faucets with actionable levels have been shut off, district officials reported. Those faucets will be replaced and will undergo follow-up testing in coming months.

The district began investigating the issue after a student at Highland Park Middle School raised concerns about “yellowish-brown” drinking water, said Maureen Wheeler, the district’s public communications officer. Initial lead testing found that aging, rusty pipes were contaminating the fountain with lead.

At Highland Park, 53 samples contained excessive lead. Highland Park’s water system is set to undergo replacement during the summer of 2017; until then, the school will continue to provide bottled water through the 2016-17 school year.

Like Highland Park, Hazeldale Elementary School students will also be switching to bottled water this school year. Sixteen samples collected at the school contained heightened amounts of lead, with at least one sample containing 139 parts per billion of lead.

Because Hazeldale is set to be rebuilt during the 2017-18 school year, the district has decided to provide students with bottled water this year, rather than replacing the fountains.

The initial delivery and first month of bottled water at Highland Park cost $3,337. At Hazeldale, the initial costs were $1,094.

Excessive lead was found at more than half of the district’s elementary schools that have had results released so far. At Terra Linda Elementary School, 24 samples contained actionable amounts of lead. At McKinley Elementary, 12 samples exceeded the limit.

This is the most comprehensive lead testing the district has undertaken, Wheeler said. Before this year, the last record of comprehensive testing for lead levels dated back to 1989.

Because the state of Oregon has not required school districts to test for lead, it’s a fairly new concern, Wheeler said.

With water contamination in Flint, Mich., and locally at Portland Public Schools dominating news headlines, the district decided to undertake a thorough sampling of all its drinking fountains.

“We have a good baseline now,” Wheeler said.