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Water Tests Shows Elevated Levels of Lead at Local Middle Schools

A survey of Alexandria City Public Schools’ drinking water sources has come back with relatively high levels of copper and lead in George Washington Middle School (1005 Mount Vernon Avenue).

Many of the schools had no outlets or very few that tested above action levels — amounts that require equipment replacement — for copper or lead. The EPA’s action levels for copper are 1.3 mg/L and much lower for lead, 0.015 mg/L. At T.C. Williams High School, 259 samples were collected and only four tested above actionable levels.

At George Washington Middle school, however, 15 of the 132 samples tested high for either copper or lead.

ECS Mid-Atlantic, which tested the water supplies, noted that efforts were made to collect a sample from every sink, water fountain, bottle refilling station and water fountain in the building.

“Some areas within the building were locked,” the report said. “ECS was informed by an ACPS representative that sinks were not located in the locked areas. Please note that ECS observed a sink in a locked closet in the cafeteria that was unable to be sampled.”

A map of the samples collected around George Washington Middle School shows that the samples with elevated lead were from across the school, though eight of them concentrated around the gym area. The report suggest that, going forward, the building be checked periodically, at a minimum of every three years.

It’s been a rough year for safety issues at George Washington Middle School, with a series of fire alarm incidents last fall and a student-led fight to prove the school still had a mold problem. The school was evacuated two weeks ago because of a gas smell, though the principal said there was ultimately no danger.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School didn’t fare much better in the water testing, with 7 of the 72 samples tested showing elevated levels of lead.

All of the high copper and lead water sources in both schools were in sinks, as were most across the other schools. The following schools had high levels of copper or lead in water fountains, though only generally in one per school.

  • Early Childhood Center
  • Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
  • John Adams Elementary School
  • Matthew Maury Elementary School
  • Mount Vernon Community School
  • Patrick Henry K-8

Full reports on each school, and the final reports for each location, are available online.

According to the school website:

Any outlets with higher than usual levels have already been taken out of use and will continue to remain out of use until the issue has been fixed. Parts of the units will be replaced and/or the lines flushed. Once this work has been completed, the water will be retested and ACPS will collect follow up samples to ensure it remains within safe limits in the future.

Higher than normal levels of lead or copper in an outlet can be caused by deterioration of the pipes or from the faucet itself. Lead was sometimes used in metal alloys to make fixtures prior to 1987. It is anticipated that the replacement and/or repair of the outlets will quickly solve this issue.

ACPS is working closely with the Alexandria Health Department on this issue. Water testing will continue to be carried out throughout the school division and all reports made public on the ACPS website.

ACPS advised that parents concerned about their child’s exposure to lead should have them tested at a pediatrician or family doctor.

“If you do not have a pediatrician or family doctor, call Neighborhood Health at 703-535-5568 to make an appointment,” ACPS said on the website.

Image via Alexandria City Public Schools

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