Lead contamination found in middle, elementary schools near Gig Harbor

GIG HARBOR, Wash. -- Lead discovered in a drinking fountain and a sink has a local school district alerting parents and conducting more tests on its water system.

The contamination was discovered near Gig Harbor in the Peninsula School District. Routine tests found the contamination at Kopachuck Middle and Voyager Elementary schools.

The district said the lead is isolated to only two water fixtures, which have since been removed, but parents are concerned.

“It’s really bad for their body,” said parent Ivonne Pearson, “I mean it’s poisonous for their system.”

Pearson only found out about the problem after Q13 News asked her to check her email. The school district sent out a notice to parents this week.

“It’s just concerning that we have an issue with the water here,” said Pearson.

The school district said tests uncovered the lead contamination in water fixtures but not in the water supply.

Results showed a drinking fountain in the middle school had 19 parts of lead per billion, and a sink in a music room at the elementary school had 41 parts per billion – which is well above the 15 parts per billion threshold.

Parent Jacque Desanto said he immediately thought about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, when he got the email, now’s he’s concerned because he has kids that go to both schools.

“Because of the level,” he said, “The level is just a little bit too alarming.”

School district and state regulator officials said the crisis in Michigan is exponentially more serious than what was found in Pierce County.

“In context, Flint, Michigan, has sample results that exceed 400 times the action level, 6,000 parts per billion,” said Mike Means, deputy director of operations at the state Office of Drinking Water, part of the Washington State Department of Health.

The school district took new water samples on Wednesday, which it said proves the contamination was isolated to the fixtures that have already been replaced.

State regulators are convinced the school children are safe.

“For most children, drinking water with the concentration of lead that we found in the schools would be really unlikely to raise the amount of lead in their blood level,” said Means.

Lead contamination is especially dangerous for kids because their growing bodies absorb more of it than adults would.

The school district expects a new round of test results to be complete by next Friday.