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Elevated Lead Concentrations in Some Faucets at SSHS

 

November 2, 2017



SEELEY LAKE - In the wake of the news surrounding the water situations reported in Flint, Michigan and Portland, Ore. Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Thane requested that the MCPS Operations Department arrange for water testing in each of our schools. The first set of results completed during the 2016-2017 school year was reported to the board in the spring of 2016 and all schools tested were found to fall within normal ranges.

“The second and final round of schools have been tested in the current school year and we learned late in the day on Wednesday, Oct. 25 that there is elevated lead content in the water at Seeley-Swan High School,” noted Thane. Five locations within the school were tested and three sinks showed elevated levels of lead in the water. These sinks are located in the men’s and women’s restrooms in the front hallway of the original building built in 1964 as well as a sink in the teacher’s lounge. The results in these locations were:

• Girls Restroom Room 157, 21 parts per billion (ppb)

• Boys Restroom Room 156, 21 ppb

• Teacher’s Lounge, 28 ppb

Anything more than 15 ppb is considered high. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that any fixtures in schools that deliver water with over 20 parts per billion not be used for drinking water.

The two drinking fountains in the lunchroom and the sink in the kitchen showed levels that were within the normal range.

The school district is communicating with the Missoula City-County Health Department and engaging consultants to take additional samples and further assess the situation. In the interim, four portable water dispensers and twenty jugs of water were supplied to the school for drinking and cooking.

School staff, parents and students were alerted by 8 a.m. Thursday morning about the situation.

All other schools within the district show levels that are within the normal range.

On Thursday, Oct. 26 MCPS administrators consulted with the Health Department to begin planning the next steps. “Based on consultation with Michelle Hutchins, Environmental Health Specialist with the Missoula City-County Health Department, we understand that the water at Seeley-Swan High School is still safe for hand-washing and bathing,” said Thane. In addition, their review of the results in the Seeley Swan Water District since 2011 show that levels are below the required Environmental Protection Agency action level of 15 ppb.

This appears to be an issue with the fixtures and pipes within the school, not a distributed problem in the Seeley Lake Water District.

MCPS has ordered additional testing of all faucets and drinking fountains at the school through Northern Industrial Hygiene. Based on further results and consultation from an environmental specialist, the district will develop a remediation plan.

For information on the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendations related to lead in drinking water, visit: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water

For further information, please contact: Hatton Littman, MCPS Communications Director, 406-239-9066 or hlittman@mcps.k12.mt.us or Michelle Hutchins, Missoula City County Health Department Environmental Health Specialist, 406-258-3495 or mhuthcins@missoulacounty.us

 

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