PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Three years after discovering high levels of lead in the drinking water of its schools, Portland Public Schools is still grappling with the problem, with hundreds of drinking fountains still testing high for lead.
According to the district, all of the fountains that are turned on in its schools have lead levels within the range considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, but some 500 fountains, roughly 28% of the fixtures in the district, are still turned off because they continue to test high.
John Burnham, PPS' Interim Senior Director of Environmental Health and Safety, said the problem with those fixtures appears to be in the walls, and the district will be launching a pilot project to install filters on 35 of those fountains, spread out over six schools.
"The pilot is going to have functional drinking fountains with the specialized filters, and we're going to be monitoring the data weekly," Burnham said.
For parents, the district offers the most recent test results for each fixture at each school on its website.
Maya von Geldern, whose son was in kindergarten when news of the lead issues surfaced, isn't happy with how long it's taken the district to fix the problems.
"I would have liked to have seen it resolved within the first year of the issues, so it's a little frustrating," von Geldern said.
The district is exploring the possibility of major plumbing replacements, but will wait to see if the filter pilot is successful before moving forward, Burnham said.
The district will be testing all the fixtures in one-sixth of its schools every year.
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