News Feature | June 16, 2016

Portland Schools Tried To Cover Up Lead Contamination

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Public schools around the country continue to suffer as more and more find that their water is contaminated with lead. The cause is usually attributed to problems with aging pipes and a lack of testing.

Students in Portland Public Schools (PPS) for example, the largest school district in Oregon, are the latest example of those barred from using their school’s water fountains, according to The Huffington Post.

The district’s fountains were shut off late last month, after PPS announced that high levels of lead had been detected in the drinking water at two of its school buildings, Creston, a K-8 school, and Rose City Park.

Like many schools and cities which find themselves in similar situations, bottled water is being used for all drinking and food preparation purposes, The Huffington Post reported. In a May 27 email, PPS Superintendent Carole Smith apologized to families and staff, acknowledging that the district had failed to properly notify them as soon as tests detected elevated levels of lead in March.

The district also did not shut off the water in the faucets or fountains where high lead levels had been detected at that time.

The Willamette Week reported in late May that over half of the 90 school sites tested between 2010 and 2012 had elevated levels of lead in the drinking water. According to the Star Tribune, the report, based on a public records request, “landed during an emergency meeting” that was taking place to discuss why PPS failed to disclose elevated lead levels at Creston and Rose City Park.

The Oregonian reported that parents developed an online petition for the resignation of Superintendent Carole Smith.

Since 2009, The Oregonian reported, the district had found lead levels above the national benchmark in water from at least one drinking fountain at 51 schools. District officials have no record that fixes were made at five of those schools.

This has also left parents and students in fear. Lead is a neurotoxin. It can lower children's IQs, cause behavioral problems, damage kidneys, and cause hearing impairment, among other things.

For more lead contamination coverage visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.