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Source of high lead levels in drinking water at one Flint school identified

Nov 9, 2015

New tests suggest high lead levels in the drinking water at one Flint school may have a simple and inexpensive solution.

Freeman Elementary in Flint, Michigan
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Initial test results on drinking water samples taken at Freeman Elementary showed high levels of lead in the water: 101 parts per billion or roughly six times the federal action level for lead in tap water.

Follow-up tests were conducted last month on water at four Flint schools that tested at or above the federal action level. 

The tests are now in for Freeman Elementary. 

The MDEQ took samples from 31 water sources at the school. They detected higher than 15 ppb from nine of the fixtures. Follow-up tests of the fixtures and the school’s plumbing found the problem was not in the pipes, but the faucets.

“The issues that we found were definitely fixture related,” says George Krisztian, the Flint Action Plan Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  

The Flint Community School district now plans on removing the suspect fixtures.

“We will start work as soon as possible to replace faucets, aerators and other related components where high lead levels were detected,” says Superintendent Bilal Tawwab. 

When tests showed elevated levels of lead in Flint drinking water and elevated blood lead levels in school age children in Flint, the school district shut off many drinking fountains and other sources of drinking water. Researchers blame the rising lead levels on the corrosive water from the Flint River, which the city started using as its drinking water source in 2014.  The city switched back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department after numerous problems with the Flint River water.

The school district has more than 300,000 thousand bottles of drinking water for students and teachers.  

The state is offering additional testing at all Flint schools, including charter, private and parochial schools.