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Water from two fixtures at two Bend-La Pine schools was found to have slightly elevated levels of lead, according to a report the school district received Wednesday.

The district has so far tested 351 drinking fountains and sinks used for food preparation at 14 facilities. Of those, one drinking fountain at Amity Creek Magnet, an elementary school in Bend, and one at La Pine Middle School had elevated levels of lead.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers lead at 20 parts per billion to be its “action” level. When lead in water is at that level or higher, action should be taken to minimize exposure, according to the EPA.

At La Pine Middle School, the water found to have 28 parts per billion of lead came from a drinking fountain in an unused classroom. At Amity Creek, the elevated sample had 31 parts per billion. By comparison, levels in Flint, Michigan’s lead water crisis, which varied greatly from house to house, were often reported in the high 100s. Given the amount of lead reaching an action level, Julianne Repman, Bend-La Pine Schools communications director, said the district is going to “proceed with an abundance of caution.”

The district is providing bottled water at both of the schools, and running water won’t be used for food preparation. Amity Creek was already having its kitchen remodeled, so food has been being delivered from the district’s production kitchen in Bend. Repman said La Pine Middle School probably will get its water to prepare food from La Pine High School, located close by. Hand washing with the water is OK, as is showering, according to the EPA.

The district plans to test fixtures at Amity Creek and La Pine Middle School a second time to make sure the first tests weren’t false positives.

From there, the school district will find where the lead is coming from and fix the issue. It could be lead soldering of a pipe, Repman said, or the fixture itself.

After initial testing in June, when one sample was taken from each of the school district’s 38 facilities, the district made plans to test every drinking fountain or sink used for food preparation. So far, all drinking fountains and food prep sinks at school district facilities built before 1980 have been tested. Testing of schools and facilities built after 1980 was finished this week, and the results are expected to come back next month.

So far, the testing has cost about $20 per fixture. The second tests at the two schools will be expedited, which will cost about $80 a fixture with about 40 fixtures total between the two schools.

Lead can get into drinking water when pipes corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content, according to the EPA.

Repman said given the lead found in Flint, and in Portland schools, Bend-La Pine Schools wanted to do testing, even before recommendations came from the state.

“As we’ve watched other schools around the state test and some schools are finding very high levels, even in the 500s, so we knew it was a possibility and that’s why we wanted to be proactive about it,” she said.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. The original version gave the incorrect action level for lead in drinking water. EPA’s recommended action level is 20 parts per billion. The Bulletin regrets the error.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,

kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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