Second community meeting held over lead in drinking water at Por - KPTV - FOX 12

Second community meeting held over lead in drinking water at Portland Public Schools

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The crowd at Wednesday's community meeting over lead in the school drinking water. (KPTV) The crowd at Wednesday's community meeting over lead in the school drinking water. (KPTV)
A woman holding a sign at Wednesday's meeting. (KPTV) A woman holding a sign at Wednesday's meeting. (KPTV)
Supt. Smith at Wednesday's meeting. (KPTV) Supt. Smith at Wednesday's meeting. (KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Another passionate community meeting was held Wednesday, as parents and community members gathered with Portland Public School leaders and health officials about elevated levels of lead found in school drinking water.

Superintendent Carole Smith admitted that certain protocols weren’t followed after lead testing was done in March at Creston Elementary school, and now a third party will be reviewing what went wrong. The results, she said, could result in personnel action.

Smith said she only learned about the elevated lead levels at Creston and Rose City Park schools last Wednesday. She said while the third-party review is underway, a Healthy Water Task Force will be formed to help prevent the district from being in the same position in the future.

Parents at Wednesday’s meeting said they’re angry that testing was done in March, but they weren’t notified about the results until last week, and some asked Smith to defend her job amid the crisis.

“Either through incompetence or deceit, or a little of both, we have allowed the first priority of a school system – which is ensuring the safety of our children – to fall flat on its face,” one parent told the panel of district leaders and water safety experts.

“You poisoned them with lead knowingly. That is unethical,” said another parent. “You are hiding, you are not telling the truth, you’re not being transparent, you are being irresponsible.”

“We’ve all been drinking gallons and gallons of tap water because we didn’t know,” a teacher added.

Smith responded to the criticism and said her priority right now is on the students and their safety.

“At the point I understood we had something that didn’t follow protocol, I acted immediately,” Superintendent Smith told the crowd.

Health experts at the meeting from the Oregon Health Authority and the Portland Water Bureau recommended that concerned families have their children blood-tested for lead and also test their pipes at home.

Free blood-level clinics will be offered through Multnomah County at Rose City Park Elementary on Monday and at Creston Elementary on Tuesday.  Both are from 4 - 8 p.m. and are free.

“It’s probably in our own house, we’ve had it tested and we’re waiting on the results,” said PPS parent Evan Hofeld. “I think it’s too early to tell what went wrong, I just hope we can get to a better solution… I don’t have any reason to believe [the district] isn’t doing the best they can.”

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