The South Kitsap School District is voluntarily implementing lead testing of water in all its schools this fall.
The district hopes the tests will addresss the heightened concern about lead given elevated levels this year in some Bainbridge Island schools. That district is now regularly testing its schools’ water supplies.
Although these tests are mandatory for schools in Washington state, Keith Grellner, director of environmental health for Kitsap Public Health, said unlike the situation in Flint, Michigan, which brought lead in drinking water to the forefront of many people’s minds, the source water Kitsap County uses is clean.
“There, what happened was, they changed their water source, and the water source that they changed to wasn’t being treated adequately,” Grellner said. “Here in Kitsap, we don’t have that problem with our large water sources.”
Throughout Kitsap County, and in Bremerton especially, there are older homes, with older pipe systems that may have a higher percentage of lead. This doesn’t affect the source water, but there can be some leaching of lead into the water that sits in the pipes for extended periods of time, Grellner said. His suggestion is to let the water run for 15-30 seconds to allow the stagnant water to flow out.
South Kitsap School District tested its water in 2004 after Seattle Public Schools found levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 20 parts per billion of lead. During those tests, SK water showed small occurrences of lead levels above 20 ppb, and problem fixtures were replaced.
In 2005, SKSD replaced 24 faucets that produced water above action levels in elementary schools, which resulted in bottled water began being used in classrooms. Follow up testing was conducted in 2007 and 2008 and showed that the issue had been resolved.
This will be the district’s first year testing since 2008, and it will also test for copper.
Anyone concerned about elevated lead levels in their water can go to www.kitsapcounty health.com/information/lead_resources.php to learn about getting samples tested.
Other proposed 2016 summer projects for South Kitsap School District include installing electronic card access controls on school entry doors beginning with elementary schools; roof repair and seismic strengthening at Cedar Heights Middle School; mitigation of water penetration of the concrete block wall in the high school theater fly loft; portable classroom painting; carpet replacement; and general maintenance, including district-wide sports field maintenance.