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6 Madison schools test positive for lead in drinking water

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Madison School District officials say drinking fountains at six schools have lead levels higher than the national standard.

District facilities manager Chad Wiese told the Wisconsin State Journal that the district tested drinking fountains East High School, Blackhawk and Sherman Middle schools, and Gompers, Lapham and Lowell Elementary schools. All of the schools had at least one fountain with lead levels higher than the national standard of 15 parts per billion. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say there is no safe blood lead level for children. Even small amounts in the bloodstream can cause slowed growth and irreversible brain damage.

In a letter to parents, Lowell Elementary School Principal John Burkholder wrote that two of his school’s drinking fountains tested at 15.4 and 18.4 parts per billion. The fountains are in the school’s new cafeteria space that was converted from classrooms.

Burkholder said the fountains have been turned off and will be replaced or repaired. He said students haven’t used the fountains this academic year.

Wiese said Blackhawk and Gompers, which share a building, had seven fountains that tested higher than the standard. East and Sherman each had one, and Lapham had three.

“The drinking fountains we’re finding (with high lead levels) are the old porcelain ones without the electric water cooler,” Wiese said. “Students and staff aren’t using those because they don’t have cold water.”
Wiese said the district began testing the fountains’ lead levels after receiving questions from staff and parents. Madison’s Water Utility Board asked the district to conduct tests.

Wiese said lead testing isn’t mandatory, but that the district plans to have lead level tests completed at every school by the end of March.

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