The Portland Public Schools District is facing the wrath of angry and frustrated parents, following the May 27 announcement that the school’s water supply was tested and revealed high levels of lead.
The water supply fo more than 90 schools in the district tested in March 2015 and of those 90, 47 tested positive for higher than normal levels of lead. Parents received notification in May after the school began using bottled water for all food-related purposes and serving students bottled water to drink.
Frustrated parents questioned the school district after learning that the water never disabled from the fountains or faucets at the school. What may have frustrated parents, even more, is when they learned that the PPSD may have known about the issue years ago.
The PPSD tested the water supply at dozens of schools in the past but did not publicly share the results. Testing that occurred from 2010 through 2012 revealed that more than half of the district’s schools water exceeded the EPA recommend guideline of 15 parts per billion. Parents and residents have demanded answers, and like Flint, the reason behind the contamination was a corrosive water supply.
The city of Portland receives its water supply from the Bull Run Watershed is corrosive. The Portland Water Bureau attempted to curb the lead contamination by treating the water with chemicals, but residents responded with apprehension and hesitation.
The PPSD has offered two lead screening clinics, free to enrolled students.
Water hasn’t flowed from drinking fountains in the Portland Public School District for more than two weeks. The move was taken as a precautionary safety measure after it was discovered that potentially unsafe levels of lead were detected in the district’s water supply back in March.
The PPSD notified parents when they switched to using bottled water on May 27. Water flow was not shut off to the fountains or at the faucets of schools were higher than normal levels of lead were detected and parents demand to know why. The PPSD apologized for notifying parents sooner.
A Portland weekly publication released a report that the PPSD was aware of the situation as early as 2010. According to the report, at least 90 schools within the PPSD were screened for lead levels, and nearly 50 of them exceeded EPA “action required” guidelines.
Parents have questioned why the school district has not turned off the water flow at the drinking fountains and water faucets at those schools.
The PPSD has arranged to conduct two free lead screening clinics throughout the summer. The first clinic served more than 220 students, two of whom tested for elevated levels of lead.
The city of Portland was made aware that its water source, the Bull Run Watershed, was highly corrosive. The Portland Water Bureau has taken action to help reduce the levels of lead present in the city’s water supply. The PWB stated that they have added a minimum amount of chemicals to reduce the presence of lead, but residents have been skeptical of using chemicals to treat the water.
Only 10% of public schools in the U.S. are required to test their water supply for the presence of lead.
It’s not the first time that communities have received news that lead is present in drinking water. Portland now joins the ranks of those cities as Superintendant Carole Smith happened to not say anything to teachers and parents about lead being in the water supply of public schools. At least two schools have been affected by the lead content. Access to water has been cut off, but there is no indication as to how much lead has been ingested by those who have consumed the water.
The neglect by the Superintendant warrants a dismissal or at least a very stern punishment. Lead can cause severe health issues. To not tell students and teachers shows irresponsibility on behalf of the school system. The Environmental Protection Agency gave notice that the faucets should not be used because of the lead content. When the tests came back to the schools, there wasn’t a letter sent home or any kind of phone call. The schools simply continued to keep the water on, letting students and those who were in the school drink water that was contaminated. Some should ask whether the school system is prepared to pay for any medications or healthcare if there are any ill effects as a result of drinking the water. Someone should be held responsible if children get sick as the information was in front of the officials and was ignored.