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Local

Sterling schools step up timetable to resolve lead levels issue

Higher-than-acceptable levels found in some schools' water

STERLING – Sterling School District, already in the process of replacing its drinking fountains, is stepping up the process a bit after 18 of its 111 water sources tested last month showed lead levels slightly higher than what is considered safe.

Six of those sources are water fountains – one at Wallace, one at Washington Elementary and two doubles at Lincoln Elementary – that tested at 6 to nearly 9 milligrams per liter; 5 is considered safe.

The rest are sinks.

A state law that took effect in January requires water at all K-5 schools built before 1987 be tested for lead by the end of this year. Districts must report the results to the state, and must notify parents when they’re higher than 5 milligrams per liter, but the law doesn’t require the district to make changes.

Nonetheless, Sterling conducted tests at all its schools – Sterling High, Challand Middle, and Wallace, Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin elementary schools.

The fountains already were scheduled to be replaced as part of a 2-year plan to gradually replace all district fountains with drinking stations, which are filtered and make it easy to refill water bottles.

The six in violation will be replaced before students return from winter break Jan. 8, at a cost of about $6,800, Superintendent Tad Everett said.

The sinks will be labeled for hand washing only.

The law, which affects about 2,500 schools and 11,000 licensed day care centers, stems from the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. Children’s exposure to lead has been linked to developmental delays, as well as violent behavior later in their lives.

Dixon schools began a similar process a year ago, when nine water fountains at Dixon High School tested just before the law took effect were found to have elevated lead levels; no other schools were affected, and the fountains were replaced.

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