Portland students return to class amid concerns over lead in the - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland students return to class amid concerns over lead in the water

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Thousands of students in the Portland Public School district returned to class Monday, but for many families there are lingering concerns over lead in the drinking water.

It’s an issue the district has been working hard to address in recent months.

Over the summer, every fixture in every school was tested for elevated levels of lead and as long-term fixes are in the works, the district is providing safe water for all students and staff.

While drinking fountains remain disconnected or covered up, bottled water dispensers are now in place throughout school buildings. Students taking part in sports will have access to bottled water at practices, too.

Cafeteria preparations are also changing; pre-washed and pre-packaged food is being used until the water system is safe.

District leaders say hand-washing in the sink is safe, but signs are posted reminding students and staff not to drink water from the sinks.

“I think they’re on top of it now, certainly not before,” said Sergei Schmidt, the father of a middle school student. “We’ve gotten several emails with steps they’re taking and we certainly looked at the open house and they still have the big water jugs, so I don’t think it’s completely solved yet, but it seemed like steps in the right direction.”

The discovery of unsafe drinking water at several schools prompted an outcry from the community and led to some 2,200 students and staff members getting blood screenings through clinics or at-home kits.

Of those, the district said 20 had elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream. The district also said in a newsletter that, to date, none of the cases have been tied back to Portland Public Schools.

Schmidt’s daughter was among those tested.

“Thankfully she tested negative,” Schmidt said. “But it was a little scary, just knowing that she was drinking contaminated water for who knows how long.”

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