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Lead found in water at two Gresham Schools

Tests of water in two of the 18 schools in The Gresham-Barlow School district showed potentially elevated levels of lead, and the water will be tested again, the district announced.

Three fixtures at Powell Valley Elementary School and five at Dexter McCarty Middle School showing higher than recommended levels of lead will be retested, the district said. Voluntary tests at other district schools returned no worrisome results.

Schools across the metropolitan area are testing water for lead after a firestorm erupted in Portland when it was revealed that Portland Public Schools had found high levels of lead in water in several schools and did not inform parents or staff or shut down the water sources. High levels of lead in the body can cause neurological problems, and children are especially vulnerable.

In East Multnomah County, Reynolds School District is also voluntarily testing the water in all of its schools and will announce results as soon as they are available. Centennial tested several months ago and found no elevated levels of lead in any building.

Gresham-Barlow said it is following guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency for lead testing. Under that protocol, testing drinking water quality is a two-step process that starts with sample-testing lead accumulation in stagnant water. If the sample test shows potential elevated levels of lead, above 15 parts per billion, those fixtures are immediately shut off. The fixtures then undergo a follow-up test.

District officials said the problematic fixtures will remain shut off until they are fixed.

Other sources of water are being used until the problems are resolved.

At Powell Valley, built in 1962, the district tested 29 fixtures, and three of them in the reading intervention classroom and the kitchen had high levels of lead. At Dexter McCarty, built in 1968, 19 fixtures were tested. Five fixtures in room 35, a special education classroom; room 37, a functional skills classroom; and the kitchen were above 15 parts per billion.

Pipes in older buildings are more likely to have lead issues.

The district declined to provide specific numbers for the eight problem spigots.

“We will release this information once we have the data from all of 18 of our schools for this first set of testing,” Athena Vadnais, director of communications and community engagement said in an email.

The district's announcement said it will post water testing results at all schools on the district web site, gresham.k12.or.us, as they become available.

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, lower intelligence, behavior and learning problems and hyperactivity, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Except in severe cases, people rarely have noticeable symptoms. The only way to know if there is a problem is a blood test.

Despite the recent concerns over lead in water, exposure to dust from lead paint is the most common way people come in contact with lead, according to the OHA. Lead has also been found in some children's toys or jewelry.

For information about the health effects of lead and how to check for lead in your home, visit the Multnomah County Health Department’s website: www.leadline.org. If you have questions, call the Multnomah County Lead Hotline at 503-988-4000, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..