Water testing finds 86 Montgomery Co. schools had high lead levels

WASHINGTON — Water tests in Maryland’s largest school system show that students at almost 90 schools may have been exposed to high lead levels.

According to Montgomery County Public Schools, 86 of the 208 schools that were tested had elevated lead levels in water, as first reported by Bethesda Magazine. Across the system, 13,248 individual water outlets were tested and 238 of them had high levels.

“Montgomery County Public Schools is committed to the safety of our students and staff,” officials said on the school system’s website.

If test results from a water fixture were found to be above 20 ppb (parts per billion), the fixture was immediately removed from service and fixed, according to officials. Fixing a water outlet usually involved replacing the fixture, valve and supply line.

According to county data, some school faucets and drinking fountain tests far exceeded 20 ppb:

  • A classroom water fountain at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, tested 356 ppb
  • A faucet in an ESOL classroom in Farmland Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland, tested at 564 ppb
  • A faucet in computer lab inside Fields Road Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tested at 259 ppb
  • A water fountain in Gaithersburg Elementary School tested at 253 ppb
  • A faucet tested at 310 ppb in a Maryvale Elementary School classroom in Rockville, Maryland
  • A classroom faucet at South Lake Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tested at 431 ppb
  • At Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a classroom faucet tested 115 ppb
  • In Kensington, Maryland, a kitchen faucet at Einstein High School tested at 700 ppb
  • At Wooton High School in Rockville, Maryland, a faucet inside a computer lab room tested at 112 ppb

Poolesville Elementary School had 11 outlets with elevated lead levels — the most out of all the schools tested. Flower Hill and Cold Spring elementary schools had 9 outlets with high levels each, and South Lake Elementary had 8.

The full list of results can be found on the school district’s website.

On its website, the Environmental Protection Agency warned that “exposure to lead is a significant health concern. The growing bodies of children and infants absorb more lead than the average adult.”

The agency recommends that water outlets be taken out of service if lead levels exceed 20 ppb.

Nearby school systems like D.C. won’t let lead exceed 5 ppb. In Prince George’s County Schools, the limit is 10 ppb.

The testing was conducted in response to legislation signed by Governor Larry Hogan in 2017, requiring all public and private schools to conduct periodic testing for lead.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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