Lead-tainted water fixtures replaced at Remann Hall, others to be replaced soon

Lead-tainted water fixtures at Remann Hall and other facilities owned or leased by Pierce County are being replaced following a recent round of testing that revealed elevated levels.

The testing, conducted after similar findings surfaced last year at a number of Tacoma schools, revealed 19 fixtures with lead levels above the standard of 15 parts per billion. One fixture at Remann Hall, the county’s juvenile detention facility, registered lead levels of 2,400 ppb. The fixture, installed at a sink used for washing dishes, has already been replaced, along with two others, said Bob Carr, maintenance and operations division manager for the county’s facilities management department.

“They were in the kitchen,” Carr said. “Those were all replaced immediately. They were in the cleaning sink — three bays. That’s not typically where drinking water’s pulled from, but just in case, we just wanted to make sure. The others in the kitchen passed.”

The remaining fixtures, in a handful of other buildings, will be replaced shortly, Carr said. However, one fixture in the Merit Building at 615 S. Ninth Street will not — county leaders had already planned to move out of the space.

Carr and county spokeswoman Libby Catalinich said the tests were conducted proactively by the county after Tacoma Public Schools leaders found elevated lead levels last year.

Lead exposure in children is a serious health concern. Studies have shown there is no safe level of lead for growing brains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there is no safe level of lead in drinking water.

While Tacoma Water provides the piping and infrastructure that feeds the county buildings, the utility was not involved in the county’s testing process, which focused only on fixtures within the buildings — some owned by the county, some leased.

The testing, conducted by consultant Pacific Rim Environmental, Inc., examined a total of 237 fixtures. Two rounds of tests were conducted, according to records of the report released by county leaders. The fixtures were flushed between 8 and 18 hours before the first samples were collected, and the samples were taken as soon as the flow of water began.

The initial round revealed 47 fixtures with elevated lead levels. Those fixtures were subjected to a second round of testing after water ran for 30 seconds, a method designed to measure lead levels in pipes and the water supply system as well as fixtures.

The second round of tests reduced the number of affected fixtures to 19. Experts found no elevated lead levels in the water systems.

“There are no apparent issues with any plumbing drinking water supply systems,” the consultant’s report states.

The fixtures replaced at Remann Hall were in the oldest section of the facility, constructed in the 1960s, Carr said. He said the remaining fixtures will be replaced by the end of February. The process requires an hour of labor and each fixture costs between $60 and $80, he said.