Battle Ground lead may be from fixtures, not pipes

Elevated lead levels detected at many schools built less than 10 years ago

Water from a drinking fountain, file. (Flickr Creative Commons)
Water from a drinking fountain, file. (Flickr Creative Commons)

BATTLE GROUND, Wash. (KOIN) — Battle Ground Public Schools shut down drinking fountains and sinks at 6 campuses after tests revealed elevated lead levels.

The schools with lead levels above the EPA’s recommended 15 parts per billion are: Amboy Middle School, built in 2008; Captain Strong Primary School, built in 1989; Chief Umtuch Middle School, built in 2008; Maple Grove School, built in 1990; Yacolt Primary School, built in 1953/1996; and the Lewisville campus, which is no longer used as a school.

More about lead in drinking water

Many say they’re confused by the lead test results, considering facilities at schools like Chief Umtuch Middle School and Amboy Middle School were built less than 10 years ago.

Amanda Fletcher’s kids go to Amboy Middle School and Yacolt Primary School, which was built partially in 1953 and 1996. She understands why the older schools have lead issues, but is confused how the newer ones like Amboy would.

“I always send my kids with their own water from home so I know it’s safe and they can drink that,” Fletcher said. “They need to fix it and they need to fix it quickly.”

Amboy Principal Michael Maloney told KOIN 6 News only one fountain in the new part of the school tested above the recommended level. Maloney said they are fortunate most of the drinking fountains have safe levels, leaving the district to believe the network of pipes is not the issue.

The district’s communications manager, Rita Sanders, said via phone they believe the lead issues might be from fixtures, fittings and soldering used in the plumbing.

In 1986, federal guidelines allowed fittings and fixtures to contain 8% or less of lead, but in 2011 congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, lowering the maximum to .25%. All the schools in question in Battle Ground were built prior to that change.

All fixtures at Amboy will be replaced, and faucets and fountains are off for now. The district may turn sinks back on for hand washing with “do not drink” signs posted.

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