NORTH TEXAS - Garland ISD and Northwest ISD released new lead testing results this week, identifying a small number of contaminated water sources at eight schools.
While there is no law requiring school districts to test their water, Garland ISD and Northwest ISD are among dozens of districts in Texas that decided to test their water after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan made national headlines earlier this year. Lead exposure can lead to negative health effects, particularly in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
FOX 4 Investigation: Multiple North Texas school districts test drinking water for lead
All of the contaminated water sources at Garland ISD and Northwest ISD have been addressed, and no students are currently exposed to contaminated water.
In October, Garland ISD personnel collected 810 water samples from 81 schools and sent the samples to Terracon, a third-party company, for testing.
According to a November 23rd report released Monday, “Samples were collected from kitchen and clinic sinks and three randomly chosen water fountains at each building.”
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends no more than 20 parts per billion (ppb) of lead in water for schools. Most school districts are following the more restrictive measure of 15 ppb applied to public water systems.
All of the drinking fountains tested at Garland ISD came back with lead levels below the 15 ppb threshold.
However, high levels of lead were found at one kitchen sink at Freeman Elementary School, one clinic sink at Toler Elementary School and one clinic sink at O’Banion Middle School.
The initial water sample from the kitchen sink at Freeman Elementary had 55.4 ppb of lead. The clinic sink at Toler Elementary had 21 ppb of lead. The clinic sink at O’Banion Middle School had 15.9 ppb of lead.
It is impossible to know how long the contamination was present, because this is the first time Garland ISD conducted this type of lead testing.
A lab analysis of those samples suggested that “the source of lead [was] localized and may [have been] related to a plumbing connection, weld or joint solder.”
Two clinic sinks, one at Herfurth Elementary School and one at Lister Elementary School, had samples just below the 15 parts per billion threshold: 12.8 ppb and 14.4 ppb respectively. Because of this, the laboratory recommended additional investigation.
After receiving the lab report, Garland ISD workers replaced faucets believed to be the source of contamination in those sinks. The water sources were resampled on November 12 and lead concentrations at all five schools came back below 15 parts per billion.
Superintendent Bob Morrison said in a statement, "We are pleased that 100 percent of our facilities passed the drinking water analysis. Providing safe environments that support exceptional teaching and learning is the Board of Trustees’ and my top priority.”
Full lab results from Garland ISD can be found here.
Northwest ISD also announced Monday that the water at all 28 of its schools had been cleared as safe.
The district hired third-party laboratory Xenco to test 299 water samples between August 9 and November 3.
In the first round of sampling, high levels of lead were detected at one drinking fountain at Lakeview Elementary School and one drinking fountain and one kitchen sink at Seven Hills Elementary School.
The initial water sample from the drinking fountain at Lakeview Elementary came back with 19.4 ppb of lead. At Seven Hills Elementary, the drinking fountain had 17.3 ppb of lead and the kitchen sink had 136 ppb of lead.
Following protocol, district employee drew new samples from the three sources for re-testing. All three of the new samples came back with lead levels below 15 ppb.
Northwest ISD did not replace any parts or fixtures or change anything between the two rounds of testing.
To clarify why the lead levels dropped, a district spokesperson said in an e-mail, “All levels did come back well within the established threshold. We are told possible reasons for the slight elevation on the three samples in the first test could simply be an error or skew in the test result. NISD does plan to look further into this and monitor those locations even though the retest came back well within the established threshold.”
As is the case with Garland ISD, it is impossible to know how long the contamination was present, because this is the first time Northwest ISD conducted this type of testing.
Northwest ISD is also considering regular lead testing in the future.
Full lab results from Northwest ISD can be found here.
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Information on Lead from the Environmental Protection Agency
“Lead can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes.
Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
- Behavior and learning problems
- Lower IQ and hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing problems
In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.”
Read more on this topic from the EPA here.
Parents concerned about lead exposure in any form can ask their child’s doctor to conduct a blood test. The doctor can interpret the results and recommend ways to reduce exposure, if necessary.
For families living in older houses, experts also recommend testing the water to rule out any dangers at home.
- Dallas County Health and Human Services
- City of Fort Worth Department
- Tarrant County Public Health
- Department of State Health Services
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Centers for Disease Control
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