SEATTLE (DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP, Associated Press) — The Bellevue School District is retesting the water in all its schools more than a decade after finding lead in 13 out of its 16 elementary schools.
On Friday morning, school officials told The Associated Press the testing that found unsafe levels of lead in water was from early May. Later Friday, they said that upon further review, they learned the elementary school results were from 2005.
A district spokeswoman says she does not know when tests that found lead in the water at middle and high schools were done.
School officials have replaced or repaired the troubled fixtures which tested positive for lead above the actionable level set by the Environmental Protection Agency, the district said.
Thirteen of the district’s 16 elementary schools had at least one fixture that tested positive for lead above 15 parts per billion in 2005, according to district spokeswoman Christina Madden. All the district’s middle schools and high schools had at least one drinking water fixture that tested above the EPA level.
District spokeswoman Elizabeth Sytman said none of the schools have shut down water fountains because the fixtures were fixed as soon as the trouble was identified. Testing is ongoing, she said.
The AP asked every school district in the state if they test drinking water for lead. Of the more than half that responded to the request, about 60 percent said they test. Of those, nearly 20 percent have found lead in at least one fixture during the past decade or so. Most made immediate repairs.
Some districts said they do not test because all their buildings are relatively new and they didn’t think the pipes or fixtures could leach lead into the drinking water. There is no state or federal law that requires schools to test the water inside their buildings for lead. Washington has a rule on the subject that has never gone into effect because the Legislature has not found money to pay for the tests.
Tacoma Public Schools revealed last month that 13 of its elementary schools had tested positive for lead in drinking water. The lead levels at some of the Tacoma fixtures were higher than any levels found in Bellevue, but health experts say there is no healthy level of lead in drinking water.
In Bellevue, the highest lead levels were found in Clyde Hill, Media, Phantom Lake, Somerset and Bennett elementary schools, some of which are in the wealthiest area of Bellevue. Each had at least one fixture with lead levels of 40 parts per billion or above. Three schools did not have any fixtures that reached the EPA actionable level: Lake Hills, Newport Heights and Stevenson elementary schools.
Bellevue has rebuilt most of its school buildings in the years since 2003.
The only lead in water found by the City of Bellevue utility department when it tested in 2014 and 2015 was inside older homes with corroded pipes, said utility spokesman Michael May. He said the water flowing into homes, schools and offices has had no positive test results for lead .
This story has been corrected to show that the elementary school tests were completed in 2005, not earlier this month, based on new information from the Bellevue School District.
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