The first school to submit its results under Montana’s new lead monitoring program tested positive for lead.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) says 36 different water fixtures at Hedges Elementary School in Kalispell showed at least some level of lead, which can enter water through old pipes.
DEQ says children are most vulnerable to lead exposure and the effects can include damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys.
Greg Montgomery manages DEQ’s new monitoring program for lead in school drinking water. He says Hedges Elementary is the first school to submit its results.
“To me, it really reinforces why we’re doing this sampling in the first place and why it’s so important to identify the lead and then coming up with mitigation to reduce the exposure,” Montgomery said.
He says of the 36 water fixtures at Hedges that tested positive for lead, 10 are at high enough levels for the school to shut the sources down immediately, and two of those are water fountains. He says the others can be flushed out on a regular basis until the school can find a permanent solution.
This January the state mandated that public and accredited private schools test all water faucets for lead. Before then, the state only required schools with their own supplies to test their water.
The tests are funded through a U.S Environmental Protection Agency grant. Schools have until December 2021 to submit samples.