Early lead results released

Dallas School District is receiving preliminary results from lead testing.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
Dallas School District is receiving preliminary results from lead testing.

DALLAS — Preliminary lead testing results in Dallas schools have found levels in some fixtures that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action” threshold of 20 parts per billion.

Results found that the sources of most of those samples are fixtures that are rarely — if ever — used for drinking, said Kevin Montague, facilities director.

He said while he’s not pleased to see tests come in too high, so far the results are better than he expected given the age of the school buildings.

“I knew we were going to have some (high) levels,” he said. “I had no doubt about that.”

The results, readings from “first pull” tests taken between Sept. 20-30, are part of the 552 fixtures tested district-wide.

All fixtures that students or staff could possibly use for drinking and food preparation were tested, exceeding the recommendations of both Oregon Health Authority and the EPA, Montague said.

The lab used for analysis, TRC Environmental Corp, began sending the district results from only those samples that exceeded 20 ppb late last week.

So far, 24 samples have tested too high, but those do not include the 184 fixtures tested at Dallas High School, which still are under analysis.

Montague said fixtures testing high have been turned off except those not easily accessed by students or staff, such as those in storage rooms or blocked by equipment.

He said even those will be turned off as soon as maintenance crews can get to them.

“The nice thing is, so far, none of our main common area drinking fountains outside of our classrooms, which is where most of our kids drink anyway, have come over the action level,” Montague said.

Montague said the scariest looking result came from a kitchen soup pot faucet at Oakdale Heights Elementary School that tested at 1,540 ppb.

He said that faucet was installed for a specific purpose is no longer used, according to kitchen employees at the school.

“The soup pot faucet has not been used in years,” Montague said. “It’s a piece of obsolete equipment.”

The district is waiting for preliminary results from Dallas High School and results from second tests taken on each of the fixtures that were high on the first sample. The results will tell the district what it needs to do to fix the problem.

The district had samples gathered following EPA guidelines of taking two at the same time, Montague said.

Samples were taken on Tuesdays through Fridays and between 4 and 7 a.m. before anyone used the fixtures. The first, or A sample, is the water from the first use. The second, or B sample, is taken after the water has run for 30 seconds.

“All of the A samples went in from testing,” Montague said. “Any of the ones that came back at or above the action level triggered the B sample to go in for testing.”

B samples will help determine where the lead is coming from — the fixture or the pipes feeding the faucet.

“We do not have any of the B results yet,” Montague said. “If the B results come back and they are lower, we can pretty well identify the fixture as the contributor and just swap out the fixture.”

If the source is in the pipes, that could be a more complicated and expensive fix that would have to take into consideration the presence of asbestos and lead paint if walls need to be opened.

A final analysis will reveal the results of all tests, even those not exceeding the 20 ppb threshold.

Montague said once the complete report is ready, the district may want to have a conversation about whether it wants to follow EPA guidelines or set a lower threshold for lead in water in its schools.

“Twenty is the action level, but EPA and Health Authority say that no amount of lead is safe,” he said. “That’s probably a board conversation.”

In other business, the district:

• Submitted its preliminary draft “Healthy and Safe Schools Plan.” The plan outlines how schools will mitigate risks of radon, lead in water, lead paint, among other health risks. Districts were to submit draft plans by Oct. 1 and final plans are due in January.

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