Two months of discolored water at Tacoma school leads to frustrated faculty and parents

Apr 18, 2024, 7:10 AM | Updated: 9:57 am

discolored water tacoma...

An out-of-service sink at Birney Elementary School due to discolored water (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Birney Elementary School in Tacoma has been dealing with brown, discolored water since February, with teachers and parents demanding answers after dealing with this issue for approximately two months.

“The water hasn’t been deemed safe or usable as of yet for them to either consume or wash their hands,” a teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, told KIRO 7.

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Tacoma Public Schools took water samples to send to a third-party lab for analysis on April 1, with results expected in four to five weeks. KIRO 7 said Tacoma Public Schools first told them last Thursday some water flushing done by Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) in the area might be the culprit, but TPU disputed that notion. TPU had been conducting water flushing nearby, but the flushing concluded in March.

“Not from our flushing, the flushing clears up literally within minutes to hours at the very most,” a TPU spokesperson said, who went on to claim that TPU’s routine water flushing and the discolored water problem are unrelated.

In an updated statement from Tacoma Public School, acquired by KIRO 7, the district stated all students and staff have access to filtered water in the main building, but staff and faculty at Birney Elementary painted a different picture.

“We have students that are out there all day that don’t have access to the main building,” one Birney Elementary teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Vice Principal Britni Proudman and the teachers out there have been providing them water out of their own pockets to drink.”

The school’s principal, Ronel Balatbat, emailed parents stating the water is safe for use.

“While Tacoma Public Utilities and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department have assured us the water is safe for use, we continue to work closely with them to address the concerns isolated to the Round Building,” Balatbat wrote in the email, according to KIRO 7. “Birney will continue to provide bottled water and access to filtered water stations in the main building to students in the Round Building. Students may fill their bottled water during their lunch period.”

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But with water testing taking approximately four to five weeks, parents remain confused over the school’s messaging.

“We’re confused on how he can say that it is safe and tell parents that because we don’t have those results yet,” one Birney Elementary teacher said.

Contributing: KIRO 7

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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Two months of discolored water at Tacoma school leads to frustrated faculty and parents