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Drinking water shut off at five more schools

Many students and staff will drink bottled water pending lead test results

   The Beaverton School District turned off the drinking fountains inside five older elementary schools late last week as a precaution even before tests determine whether any more of its buildings have lead-tainted water.

Water testing will begin soon at all schools and other facilities district-wide, and the results will dictate whether further steps will be needed to keep students and staff safe, district spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler said.

“At this time, we do not expect any other schools to be shut off,” she said.

The elementary schools where the drinking water is being replaced with bottled water are Elmonica, Errol Hassell, Greenway, Hazeldale and Rock Creek.

Those five schools have water systems whose construction dates before a 1986 lead ban and have copper pipes, and potentially, lead solder. They were identified as district officials examined all potential lead sources in its buildings in response to increased awareness about lead in drinking water.

In each case, they turned off all standard drinking fountains and put warning signs on combined faucet-drinking fountain fixtures located in some classrooms. Additionally, the district is providing bottled water dispensers in all classrooms, gyms, cafeterias and other areas around the school buildings.

Local water providers conduct regular water tests and their systems have been shown to deliver water without elevated amounts of lead, but the metal can enter the drinking water through older pipes belonging to customers, such as those inside aging school buildings where lead testing is not required.

Wheeler said district officials didn’t have evidence that there are elevated lead levels in the drinking water at any of these elementary schools but made the decision to shut off the supply based on the age of the buildings’ plumbing pipes and components.

Previous testing did uncover elevated lead levels from two drinking fountains (but not all samples) taken in May at Highland Park Middle School, where students and staff also are drinking bottled water until its pipes can be replaced in 2017.

As an extra safety measure, all district facilities, including these schools, will be systematically tested for lead in the water over the coming few weeks, Wheeler announced last week.

Tests will be conducted at every drinking fountain and faucet — including kitchens — in all Beaverton schools and facilities across the district.

It could take another two weeks after collections before test results come in and can be shared, Wheeler said.

A district safety committee authorized the district-wide water testing back on May 13 and the district signed a contract with a testing company on Friday.

The district shared more plans last week as the issue of potentially toxic levels of lead in drinking water kept washing across the national headlines, including the highly publicized case from Flint, Mich.

Portland Public Schools has drawn intense criticism after prior water testing had detected worrisome levels of lead in some school water systems but only recently came to light.

The district also has added a water quality page to its website that links to various resources and will offer updates on water testing results and responses.