Texas is facing a common problem throughout its schools in the Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth areas: lead and copper in drinking water. Seven Dallas Independent School Districts (ISD) campuses had high levels of copper or lead in drinking water when tested in the fall of 2016, according to results recently released by the district.
“The district was prompted to take action after the Fort Worth school district found that dozens of schools there had elevated lead levels this summer” according to the Dallas News article Seven Dallas ISD Schools Have Elevated Lead or Copper in Water, dated January 20, 2017. Dallas’ elevated levels were found at: Woodrow Wilson High, Preston Hollow Elementary, Billy Earl Dade Middle, James Madison High, Skyline High and both Wilmer-Hutchins high school and elementary. The lead tests revealed levels as high as 160 ppb at James Madison High, eight times the recommended levels for action at schools.
It is important to note that District 2 did not test each fountain but relied on random testing. That meant some campuses only had two samples collected while others had several. Although random testing will alert officials that a problem may exist at the school, it certainly does not provide the needed information to undergo a successful remediation. We know that lead most frequently gets into drinking water by leaching from plumbing materials and fixtures as water moves through a school’s distribution system. Testing each drinking water source facilitates an evaluation of the plumbing and helps target remediation. It is a key step in understanding the problem, if there is one, and designing an appropriate response.
Districts have taken various approaches. Houston ISD reviewed only elementary schools initially with plans to finish all schools by the end of the year. Fort Worth and Arlington tested each fountain and sink in use at all schools in their districts. Plano took random samples at its older campuses. Christopher Gray, Dallas ISD’s director of environmental health and safety said at this point, there is no reason to anticipate the need for additional testing in Dallas.
FACT advocates for a proactive approach to safe guarding children against lead in school drinking water, which consists of periodic testing of all drinking water sources in all schools in a district. The permanent health affects of lead ingestion are clear; schools must take steps to test school drinking water and ensure that no child is exposed to toxic chemicals while at school.