KALISPELL—Kalispell Public Schools announced the results of lead tests for Hedges Elementary School at a school board meeting on July 21, 2020. The tests were completed as part of the requirements of the new Lead in School Drinking Water rule and included testing all human consumption water fixtures. Lead in drinking water poses a health risk to children. The new rule provides increased protection to keep kids healthy by requiring Montana schools to test for lead and remediate any fixtures that exceed the state's new health-based standards for school water systems.
Test results show that there are locations within Hedges Elementary School that require remediation. All test results are posted on the district’s website at: https://www.sd5.k12.mt.us/Content2/lead-water. Kalispell Public Schools plan to remediate any fixtures or faucets exceeding the standard and will look to further remediate as necessary. The district will strive to complete the remediation consistent with state rules prior to Aug. 24, 2020. Future lead test results from Kalispell Public Schools will be announced and posted on the district website. Parents will also receive a letter and/or email communicating these results.
“We take the health and safety of our students and staff very seriously and will take the necessary actions to remediate lead in our school’s drinking water,” said Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Micah Hill.
Children are especially susceptible to lead exposure because their bodies absorb the metal at higher rates than adults. Not every state requires schools to test for lead or sets standards for acceptable levels of lead. Montana has chosen to be proactive in order to protect all school children in the public schools across the State. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no safe level of lead exposure in children has been identified. The new rule sets the Montana school requirement at a lead concentration of 0.005 mg/L, the lowest amount at which lead is accurately measured in water.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is managing the lead reduction in schools program for the State of Montana.
“DEQ commends Kalispell Public Schools for being proactive about sampling and being the first to test. Early results from Kalispell have reinforced the importance of testing so schools can identify and fix the problems to ensure the water is safe for children to drink,” said DEQ Director Shaun McGrath.
Kalispell Public Schools retested a few faucets to ensure accurate results since the school has sat dormant due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lead enters drinking water when water is stagnant in lead pipes or plumbing systems. Before testing, schools should flush faucets for a short period of time to remove stagnant water. The new rule requires schools to create and follow a regular flushing plan to reduce the risk of exposure to elevated levels of lead following prolonged periods of inactivity.
DEQ, along with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and Office of Public Instruction are supporting schools with testing and remediation guidance, funding for testing as well as funding to assist with replacement and remediation of fixtures. The lead rule was passed as part of a larger initiative by DPHHS to update the administrative rules for schools, providing additional health and safety protection for youth in the State of Montana. Schools are required to test every three years and have until December 2021 to complete the first round of tests.
DEQ will share lead sample test results for all Montana schools as soon as they are reported from the laboratory on the DEQ website starting in August.