PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Testing of drinking water at Portsmouth Public Schools showed alarmingly high lead levels in 30 water sources, some levels more than 30 times the limit recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.
However, 27 of the 30 unacceptable water sources were fixed by a simple flush of the system, removing a build-up of lead contamination caused by infrequent use of the sinks and fountains. A Portsmouth Public Schools spokeswoman said the other three sources – two classroom sinks and a cafeteria line – were then fixed by maintenance staff.
The report, conducted by Marine Chemist Service, Inc. in the summer and fall of 2018, details the results of thousands of water tests conducted at drinking fountains, classroom sinks and other sources across the school district.
Among the most egregious test results, a cafeteria sink at Emily Spong Preschool tested for a lead contamination level of 481 parts per billion. A classroom sink at Cradock Middle School tested at 564 ppb.
EPA sets a maximum recommendation of 15 ppb for drinking water sources in schools. Although, local health officials said that’s an intentionally high bar.
“The EPA intentionally sets a very large safety margin with that 15 parts per billion level as an actionable level,” said Demetria Lindsay, Director at the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health.
Both sinks tested for less than 5 ppb after a 5-minute flush of the water in the pipes, signaling the water in those sinks had been stagnant for an extended period of time, contributing to lead build-up.
These three water sources that continued to test at an unacceptable lead level after the retests:
- A cafeteria kettle line at Olive Branch preschool (215 ppb)
- Room 213 sink at Churchland High School (86.4 ppb)
- Room 229 sink at Woodrow Wilson High School (277 ppb)
Portsmouth Public Schools said these levels were resolved.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools reported last week that 61 (roughly 4%) of its tested water sources showed unacceptable lead levels. The school division said it fixed every water sources within two weeks, and it will now implement a “flushing program” that will clear the pipes each summer.
“Before you come back to school at the end of summertime, we’re going to implement a flushing program where we flush every one of those drinking sources and food prep sources,” VBCPS COO Jack Freeman said.
13 News Now is asking for the lead level tests of other local school districts. We’ll post those results when we receive them.