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Former day care tests high for lead

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Rooms at Helensview School that tested high for lead used to be a daycare, but school officials say the young children always had filtered or bottled water.A Portland school district says rooms with water fixtures that have tested high for lead formerly were used as day care facilities for young children, but those classes have always used filtered or bottled water.

Multnomah Education Service District recently performed schoolwide water-quality tests on its three school buildings built before a 1986 ban on lead in water pipes and fixtures. Lead is particularly dangerous to ingest in young children, since the heavy metal can block neurological development in their growing brains.

While most of the district’s water fixtures tested below actionable levels, the Helensview alternative high school in Northeast Portland had 17 fixtures that posted above the federal action limit of 15 parts per billion of lead.

The highest reading of those fixtures — at 94.2 parts per billion — was in Room 9, which used to be a day care center from 1998 to 2011.

“During that time, it is reported that every sink/faucet had a filter, specific for lead. The filters were changed monthly,” Kathryn Skimas, director of instruction services at Multnomah ESD, stated in an email.

The rooms are now used for storage. Rooms 11 and 12 are now used for the child care center but those rooms have used bottled water for the past five years, district officials say.

The district is conducting a second round of tests to confirm the first round of lead results. Those are expected back in a few weeks, says newly elected School Board Chair Stephen Marc Beaudoin, who notes that the water testing labs are inundated with requests from a rush of public agencies wanting to test their water. In late May, revelations that Portland Public Schools had known about actionable lead test results, but did not inform parents, and in some cases did not perform immediate fixes, sparked a firestorm of controversy.

The water at a Multnomah ESD building that was closed in 2014 — the Pathways Community School for students with significant disabilities on East Powell Boulevard in Gresham — has not been tested for quality before nor since the closure, according to Chief Operating Officer Jim Rose.

The program was moved to the Wheatley School building after multiple problems with environmental health quality and lack of maintenance by the landlord, including black mold.

The district leases both the Wheatley and Helensview buildings from Parkrose School District.

Shasta Kearns Moore
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