Report reveals PPS may have known about lead in water, but didn - KPTV - FOX 12

Report reveals PPS may have known about lead in water, but didn't disclose results

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A new report revealed that Portland Public Schools may have known about excessive levels of lead in the water at several district facilities but never disclosed what they found.

FOX 12 obtained a copy of the 261 page report from a school board member on Wednesday.

PPS Spokesperson Christine Miles confirmed this report is compiled from an extensive database within the district that shows which schools were tested for lead over the years.

The report dated February 27, 2015, includes data from as far back as 2001. Dozens of schools are named in the report, which lists fountains and faucets tested for lead.

PPS Board Member Steve Buel confirms the document’s numbers were measured in parts per billion. That means some 47 schools had levels higher than the EPA's maximum contaminant level of 15 parts per billion, between 2010 and 2012.

“I’ve been getting tons of emails and calls from teachers asking me what to do because they’ve been in a school for 30 years and thought drinking the water was safe,” President of the Portland Association of Teachers Gwen Sullivan said. “I’ve had two teachers call me who are pregnant, and one says she’s going to the doctor today because she’s so concerned about her baby.”

Sullivan said she has never heard of any problems with drinking the water at Portland Public Schools until recently. She add that teachers are now concerned not just for their own health, but for the kids they’ve taught over the years.

“Teachers always talk about how they try to make sure their kids stay hydrated on a day like today. They now feel guilt thinking they were poisoning their kids, and they had no idea,” Sullivan said.

This revelation comes after reports showing the high levels of lead found in the drinking water at Creston Elementary and Rose City Park were released last week

The district noted those tests were done a few months ago, but Superintendent Carole Smith said she wasn’t notified for eight days and not until after the problem was fixed. In that time the water was not shut off at the schools and no signs were posted.

Smith said Tuesday that she is now launching a third party investigation into why that happened and suspects involved employees could be put on leave. 

“If she didn’t know she should have,” Sullivan said. “I would be shocked she didn’t know and shocked why you wouldn’t do something about it if you knew about it.”

District officials said they are moving up their summer testing and are working with a contractor to get into affected schools as quickly as possible. 

In response to the newly released report, PPS Spokesperson Christine Miles publicly released a memo updating school board members on the testing and remediation data.

The memo outlines that the database used to generate the report given to the board on Tuesday  also contained information on what the district had done to mitigate lead levels that were greater than the EPA action level.

According to the memo, the school district took action at over 140 locations, including installing filters, replacing fixtures or posting signs.

There were seven different water fixtures in seven different schools that had not been addressed, two of which no longer existed at schools, Franklin and Faubion, that are under construction.

The remaining five fixtures are not currently in use and will be addressed over the summer. They are:

  • Applegate Elementary School - Fountain - Room 12
  • Jackson Middle School - Fountain - near G East- Mech
  • Peninsula Elementary School - Food Prep Sink - Kitchen
  • Vernon Elementary School - Fountain - Room 202
  • Whitman Elementary School - Fountain - Room 12

The memo also noted that the district is physically inventorying the buildings where elevated lead levels were found to verify that fixes had been made.

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