Local: War on Water

Local: War On Water

Local tap water problem seeks solution

Poisoned tap water sources of Oregon public schools have become quite the hot topic in local news when Portland Public schools decided to have their water tested for lead.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.”

Health effects can occur as low as 5 parts-per-billion, according to some experts, and the EPA recommends shut off and replacement at 20 PPB.

The concern of lead in tap water first started in May of 2016 in the Portland public school district, which quickly prompted other Oregon school districts to follow suit. But the problem isn’t exactly local, with nearly 18 million Americans exposed to elevated lead levels.

The side effects of contamination in tap water is considered to be worse for young children, an age range that the EPA stresses is most vulnerable to poisoning.

“Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects on lead,” according to epa.gov.

The Albany Democrat-Herald has made several reports on the Greater Albany Public Schools’ water quality this summer.

During the month of August, a total of eleven tests were done on various public drinking water outlets throughout the city. The Albany Senior Center on NW Water Avenue had three faucets report levels of 15, 18, and 21 ppb. Most prominently, the test from faucet in the Willamette Meeting Room inside Albany City Hall resulted in 28 ppb.

The Democrat-Herald says that Chris Bailey, the City Public Works Director, reported that the “Health risk to the community is not cause for alarm, because the Centers for Disease Control is primarily concerned with water sources that are used exclusively by young children, or are the primary source of drinking water for them.”

The same article also added that, “the faucets in question are not used frequently by the same people, so the risk for neurological damage is not significant.”

On August 11, it was also reported that six out of Albany’s eleven elementary schools have reported lead levels above the 15 ppb action level. Even worse, the highest levels reported were 175.0 at North Albany Middle School.

In a letter to parents and staff members of Greater Albany public schools, Superintendent Jim Golden gave a list of schools with high lead levels. They include:

  • Calapooia Middle School
  • Clover Ridge Elementary School
  • Fairmount Building
  • Lafayette Elementary School
  • North Albany Middle School
  • Periwinkle Elementary School
  • South Albany High School
  • South Shore Elementary School
  • Sunrise Elementary School
  • Takena Elementary School
  • Tangent Elementary School
  • Waverly Elementary School
  • West Albany High School

Seven of Corvallis school district’s eight elementary schools have also reported high lead levels.

The Greater Albany school district has yet to give a clear statement on how it’s developing a solution, according to letters written to parents and staff by the superintendent.

Article by Morgan Connelly.