Elevated Lead Levels Found In Three Percent Of Pittsburgh Schools' Water Sources

Sep 29, 2016

Pittsburgh Public Schools found elevated levels of lead in 14 drinking fountains in schools.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public officials have installed between three and six water bottle filling stations in each the district's 54 schools after finding 141 water fixtures texted positive for elevated levels of lead.

The district found 141, or about 3 percent, of its 4,700 sinks and water fountains tested above the safe level recommended by the Allegheny County Health Department. Fourteen were drinking fountains.

“The low percentage and remaining isolated fixtures, with lead level concentration at or above 20 (parts per billion), indicate that there were no source water or facility wide lead concerns,” a district press release said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed 15 parts per billion a dangerous lead exposure level.

The affected fountains were uninstalled, according to the district’s chief operating officer, Ronald Joseph. He said new units were installed and re-tested. Some fixtures were not removed but were labeled as non-drinking water.

“Although there is no federal law requiring water testing, the safety of our students is a top priority,” he said. “It was important for us to take proactive steps prior to receiving any actual results.”

The county’s Director of Health, Karen Hacker, said drinking water is a concern, but the leading cause of childhood lead poisoning in the county is from lead found in paint. Hacker said concerned parents should have their water tested anyway.

Schools began sending notices about the lead levels in drinking water home with children on Thursday.