Tests show high lead levels in water at 60 Cleveland schools

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of emergency in Genesee County due to lead in the water. (NBC25 News Photo)
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of emergency in Genesee County due to lead in the water. (NBC25 News Photo)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland’s school district will replace hundreds of drinking fountains, restroom faucets, outdoor spigots and other water fixtures after tests found high lead levels in the water at 60 of its buildings.

All but nine of the buildings checked had water fixtures with elevated lead readings, the district said Friday.

The district will begin replacing 582 water outlets, including 79 drinking fountains and 40 faucets in areas such as kitchens and teachers’ lounges.

Testing done this summer found that 9 percent of drinking-water sources in school buildings were over the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Children have not been exposed to the water during this school year because water stations were placed in the buildings due to the ongoing testing, said Patrick Zohn, the district’s chief operating officer.

Buildings will continue to receive outside water until repairs and follow-up tests are completed, he told The Plain Dealer.

“We’re taking a cautious, conservative approach,” Zohn said.

The district said it decided to voluntarily test the water for lead after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Schools using a public water supply are not required to test for lead, which is known to severely affect a child’s development and can cause behavior and learning problems.

Only those schools that operate their own water systems — just a fraction of schools and day care centers nationwide — are required to check for lead.

Earlier this year, Ohio overhauled its rules for lead in drinking water and included a reimbursement of up to $15,000 for testing and replacing fixtures in schools built before 1990.

Lead contamination usually happens when water comes into contact with old or corroded plumbing materials containing lead.

Cleveland’s district estimates it has spent more than $500,000 this year on testing and bringing in water for students.

It’s not clear yet how much it will cost to replace the fixtures.

The district in July began taking and testing 5,124 samples from drinking fountains, outdoor hoses, bathroom and kitchen sinks, and lab sinks and other outlets.

A second round of testing confirmed the high lead levels in 582 samples, the district said.

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