Albany schools have begun testing for lead in water fixtures around the district and should have the first results in by the end of the week.
Summer employees with the Greater Albany Public Schools physical plant began taking samples July 7. Waverly, Periwinkle and Oak Grove elementary schools were first on the list and their results should be the first back, said Doug Pigman, director of facilities.
“If any come back positive, we’re obviously going to do whatever we have to to get them to come back negative," he said.
Pigman said he is expecting testing to wrap up sometime in August. The cost is $18 per test and it's expected to take about 500 tests to cover the district.
The testing will take time because Albany is following a daylong process that involves first flushing all sinks and taps for 15 minutes, then letting them sit for eight to 18 hours before taking a sample, said Stephanie Dilbone, one of the department's summer employees working on the project.
That means she and her fellow testers — sister Jessica Dilbone and coworker Kristina Groome — can't do a test when custodians or other maintenance workers need to be in the building using the plumbing. They're scheduling their visits around that work.
The three testers start by first mapping each building, documenting the locations of all sinks and water fountains. They then post signs reminding anyone in the building not to use the taps.
After the designated wait period, they come back and take a 200-milliliter sample from each location. Those must be sent for testing within 10 days.
School districts throughout Oregon are spending the summer testing for lead following reports of elevated levels at several Portland schools.
Gov. Kate Brown, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority all have recommended schools perform lead tests. The state’s Board of Education is expected to vote in August on a recommendation that would require schools to develop safety plans that, among other things, would test for lead and radon, monitor air quality and reduce exposure to toxic materials.
No “safe” level for lead ingestion exists, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA requires treatment techniques if the lead in more than 10 percent of a tap water sample exceeds 15 parts per billion.