Elevated Lead Levels in Some School Drinking Water Locations

Elevated Lead Levels Detected in Some School Drinking Water Locations

Dear families and staff of WSSB,

As of 2021, Washington state law (RCW 28A.210.410 and RCW 43.70.830) requires drinking water in all K–12 public schools built, or with all plumbing replaced, before 2016 be tested for lead. The purpose of lead testing is to identify drinking water outlets that are potential sources of lead exposure. It is natural for lead to accumulate in older or infrequently used drinking water outlets. These outlets are identified through testing so they can be shut off or replaced to reduce exposure to lead from school drinking water.

What We’ve Learned

On March 23, 2024, 53 drinking water outlets at WSSB were sampled. Water from outlets used for drinking or food preparation were tested for lead by a state-accredited laboratory. Test results show six outlets with elevated lead levels. Per RCW 28A.210.410, elevated lead level means a lead concentration in drinking water that exceeds five parts per billion (ppb).

What We’re Doing

  • Immediately upon receiving test results, water to outlets with elevated lead levels were shut off. The acceptable level of lead is 5 parts per billion (ppb). The places where lead was found at levels above acceptable limits are: Irwin Room 1 sink tap (11 ppb); Irwin Room 2 drinking fountain (37 ppb); Irwin Room 11 sink tap (33 ppb); Irwin Room 14 sink tap (8 ppb); Irwin Room 19 both sink taps (6 and 7 ppb). These have been shut off and the individuals who work in those rooms have been contacted by our facilities manager, David Zilavy.
  • We are working closely with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to develop a remediation plan for reducing lead levels in drinking water. When we have finalized our action plan we will share a link to this document.

Why Lead is a Concern

Children are exposed to lead from a variety of environmental sources. Each exposure contributes to the amount of lead in a child’s body. Some common exposure sources include:

  • Dust from old, deteriorating lead paint.
  • Contaminated soil.
  • Lead dust tracked into the home from external sources, such as parents and regular visitors who work in certain industries where lead is present.

While the likelihood of school drinking water alone causing an elevated blood lead level is very low, it is important to reduce exposure from every source as much as possible. Children six years old and younger are the most susceptible to the effects of lead. Their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Even at very low levels of exposure, children may experience effects, such as lower IQ levels, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, poor classroom performance, or other harmful physical and behavioral effects. Children over the age of eight are less susceptible to the impacts of lead exposure. Children who have been exposed to lead may not look or act sick. The best way to tell if a child has been exposed is with a blood lead test.

Where to Learn More

Lead test results are available from David Zilavy and on our website under the “Recent News” heading on the homepage. For more information about water quality in our schools, please contact David Zilavy at david.zilavy@wssb.wa.gov . Additional information about lead exposure, as well as how to prevent lead exposure, is available at doh.wa.gov/lead. You can also reach out to the DOH Childhood Blood Lead Program at 800-909-9898 or lead@doh.wa.gov for more information. If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to lead for any reason, ask your healthcare provider about having them tested for lead.

WSSB Lead in Water Test Results (pdf)

WSSB Lead in Drinking Water Action Plan (pdf)