There is something in the Tacoma, Washington water more deadly than a shark. It lurks out of sight, slipping through the shadows to grab our children and drag them to the depths of no return. It can steal away a woman’s ability to have a healthy birth, and it can damage the brains of her existing children.
This lethal element haunts mothers and fathers in Flint, Michigan day and night, and now it has come to Tacoma. That poisonous assassin is high lead levels in the water, and it has caused authorities to block access to the water fountains at Horace Mann Elementary and Jennie Reed Elementary and order bottled water.
When the Tacoma Public School District heard that lead was found in four area homes, it decided to implement its own water testing for all schools. An additional four schools tested their water Tuesday.
According to KIRO7, Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel said:
‘We have very, very high contamination from lead in multiple locations in both schools.’
Tacoma and Seattle public utility released an advisory to its public utility customers, requesting them to run tap water before drinking it. The source of the contamination is old gooseneck fittings, which connect homes to the water main. Authorities do not yet know the source of high levels at the schools, but this is just one more example of the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Tests showed the two elementary schools’ lead levels were 116 times higher than the district standard. When there is lead in the water, it is measured in parts per billion (ppb). The Environmental Protection Agency says anything over 15 ppb is too high. However, according to the Washington Post, 5 ppb is too high. In Flint the highest lead level was 13,000 ppb.
- At Horace Mann Elementary, 39 of the 59 testing sites showed lead levels above 20 ppb and those sites ranged from 5 ppb to 2330 ppb.
- At Jennie Reed Elementary, 23 of the 69 testing sites showed lead levels above 20 ppb and those sites ranged from 0 to 784 ppb.
A post at the district’s website said:
‘At this time, it does not appear that any steps were taken (a year ago) to correct the problems at those locations. The vast majority of water at those locations showed no problems.’
According to KIRO7, the key developments so far are:
• ‘Some water tested as high as some of the homes in Flint Michigan’s water crisis.
• Tests were conducted nearly a year ago, but results weren’t reviewed by district until Friday. Monday night, a district team discovered 4 more reports.
• The district is conducting an immediate audit of all past water quality test results
• Tacoma Schools has placed an employee on paid administrative leave pending investigation for water quality testing and reporting.
• The district shut off all water sources and handed out bottled water to students and staff members at Horace Mann and Jennie Reed. Bottled water has been ordered for the four other schools.
• Samples were taken at Horace Mann and Jennie Reed schools Tuesday morning.
• All schools in the city will be tested for lead contamination. Testing will take several weeks to complete.’
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s webpage on lead offers frequently asked questions and resources.
H/T: KIRO7 News.