Tacoma Public Schools announced Thursday it is stepping up its efforts to combat lead in school drinking water.
Under its latest plan, the district will immediately replace any fixtures in a school if an initial round of water testing indicates contamination.
The district launched a series of water tests after officials discovered April 22 that voluntary testing from previous years that had indicated high lead levels in some schools had not been reviewed or acted on.
A school district investigation will probe why and how that happened.
The school district’s safety and environmental health manager, Ken Wilson, is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.
The school district now is following a two-step testing process in line with what’s recommended by the state Department of Health and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The first-draw test is done after water sits in pipes overnight. If first-draw results suggest the presence of lead exceeds the district’s standard of 15 parts per billion, a second test is performed after water is run through the tap briefly.
The first test is intended to flag the presence of lead, and the follow-up can indicate whether the problem is coming from beyond the faucet, possibly from pipes behind the walls.
The district said Thursday it is changing its protocol so a first-draw sample that shows lead above the 15 ppb level will trigger automatic replacement of the water fixture and more follow-up testing to ensure water coming from the new faucet meets standards.
Additionally, first-draw samples that register above 15 ppb will mean the water supply will be shut off as testing and remediation continues.
The school district will continue to provide bottled water to classrooms where the water supply is shut off.
The district released results Thursday from its newest school building, Washington Elementary. Results from the initial sampling of 102 fixtures at the school showed none at or above 15 ppb.
While Washington schools are not legally required to test water for lead or other contaminants, some school districts, including Tacoma, began doing so on a voluntary basis in recent years.
Other Pierce County school districts indicate that they plan to test.
Find out more
Learn more about Tacoma Public Schools water testing at tacomaschools.org/waterquality.