DC retesting all schools for lead after problems found in water sources

WASHINGTON — After tests at 12 public schools revealed elevated levels of lead in the drinking water, the District is retesting every water source in its schools and recreation centers and vowing to be more upfront about future problems.

The District’s Department of General Services (DGS) says it will retest all water fountains, sinks, and hoses before summer camp begins June 17.

Last year, DGS tested 3,734 samples from drinking water sources in its 113 public schools. Seventeen sources in 12 schools were identified as having levels deemed “actionable” by Environmental Protection Agency standards.

If a source tests at an actionable level, water sources are shut off, filters are installed or other remediation is performed.

The water source is supposed to remain out of service until retesting shows the water is safe to drink.

In a letter posted on the agency website, City Administrator Rashad Young says “unfortunately, in isolated instances, that protocol was not strictly followed.”

Young says the retesting is being done of of “an abundance of caution.”

In most cases, elevated levels of lead in drinking water can be traced to older pipes or fixtures in a building.

While lead testing results have been posted online for years, D.C. public schools will now alert parents about the findings.

“As test results are returned, we will remediate any issues, and we will publicly share the results,” wrote Young.

High levels of lead are linked to brain damage and developmental problems.

“We know that lead is not good for child development,” said Jennie Niles, D.C.’s deputy mayor for education. “We want to make sure the water our kids are drinking in schools is healthy.”


Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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