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Six Tacoma schools now reporting lead in drinking water

A water fountain at one of two Tacoma elementary schools found with high levels of lead in the water is covered now to prevent children from drinking from it. High levels of lead were found at Horace Mann and Jennie Reed. (KIRO 7)

Four more Tacoma schools have reported having high levels of lead in their drinking water Tuesday.

Warnings went out to parents of students at Madison Head Start and Whittier, Delong and Manitou Park elementary schools.

Students at Horace Mann and Jennie Reed elementary schools were provided with drinking water after “unacceptable” levels of lead were found in the water Monday. Technicians have taken new samples at those schools Tuesday morning.

Tacoma Public Schools decided to test their own water after lead was found in four homes near Lincoln High School, KIRO 7 reports.

Related: Seattle Public Utilities finds ‘low levels’ of lead in some samples

Tacoma Schools found two results from May 2015 that had not been reviewed. Results “showed unacceptable levels of lead in the water,” according to the district.

Authorities say the two public elementary schools were found to have high levels of lead in their drinking water contained up to 116 times more lead than a district standard allows.

Lead in water is measured in terms of parts per billion (ppb). If a test comes back with lead levels higher than 15 ppb, the EPA recommends that homeowners and municipalities take steps to reduce that level.

According to a Washington Post article, a cause for concern can start at 5 ppb. A team examining Flint’s water crisis says 5 ppb is below the borderline for EPA acceptability, but they say levels this high can be a cause for concern, particularly for young children.

“We have very, very high contamination from lead in multiple locations in both schools,” said Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel.

It’s unclear if the water with the highest levels were consumed at the Tacoma schools.

The school district will be conducting an audit of similar tests. A contractor will take new samples at Mann and Reed Tuesday before school with possible results by Wednesday.

In the meantime, the school district has ordered bottled water, shut off all water sources, and blocked access to the schools’ drinking fountains.

The district is now trying to determine how, and why, test results showing high lead contamination sat without being reviewed for nearly a year.

“We’re investigating that right now,” Voelpel said. “They were overlooked when they came in, that’s unacceptable.”

A district employee has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the testing and reporting protocol. Voelpel would not identify the employee.

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