District Participates in State-Funded Water Testing Program
This year, the Washington State Legislature made limited funding available to the Department of Health (DOH) to facilitate testing of drinking water in elementary schools around the state. The purpose of the program is to test levels of lead and ensure school drinking water is safe for public consumption.
The Snoqualmie Valley School District was one of the earliest applicants to the program, which is funded on a first come, first served basis. As a result, the District was awarded testing services for five SVSD elementary schools. Timber Ridge Elementary was not included in the request or award, since the school was tested a year ago as part of the new school’s construction.
Bill Davis, Director of Operations for the school district explained, “The District periodically performs water quality testing, with the last comprehensive, districtwide test performed in 2005. At that time, all schools were tested and confirmed as safe. In addition to that testing, further water sampling has been performed whenever there is new construction or renovations in our buildings. Basically, when construction activity could cause a disturbance in plumbing, the building is tested.” Davis further noted that, “When a district pays for this testing through a private company, it can cost between $4,000 and $6,000 per building, so participation in this program has saved our district approximately $25,000 to date.”
Testing under the state program is conducted by a DOH certified professional, who samples all faucets in a school. Water samples are then sent to a state accredited laboratory for testing. In February, Snoqualmie Elementary School was the first SVSD school tested. Results confirmed all SES samples were well below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thresholds for safe drinking water. The remaining elementary schools were tested in April, with results expected in a few weeks.
According to the State Department of Health website, “Concentration of lead in drinking water, even when it exceeds the EPA standard of 20 ppb (parts per billion), is low compared to other sources of lead such as lead paint. The likelihood of drinking water at school alone causing an elevated blood lead level is very low.”
While the District doesn’t anticipate any water quality issues, the testing being performed would be able to pinpoint the source of any potential issue, even identifying specific faucets which may be of concern. This important information would help the District quickly remediate any potential findings, in accordance with DOH guidelines. In many cases, an issue can be addressed by implementing a system flushing program or replacing specific fixtures. However, no state funding is available to help school districts after the testing.
In the news: During one of the building tests, the District hosted a visit from KIRO, who was working on a story to help promote the state program. Elizabeth Coleman, DOH Environmental Health Communications Lead who helped to coordinate the story with KIRO, said that she hopes the coverage will help raise awareness about the opportunity provided by the program and encourage more schools in Washington to volunteer for this testing. Since there is currently not enough funding available to cover testing for all schools, she is also hopeful the story will spark interest from school communities and help entice the Legislature to provide more funding to support the program and assist more schools throughout the state.
Tune in to KIRO today, May 3, for the 5 p.m. news broadcast to see the story, which may include footage of the sampling procedures recently performed at Cascade View Elementary.