Water at several Utah schools show elevated levels of lead, hundreds more not tested

SALT LAKE CITY – As kids get ready to head back to school this week, school districts throughout the state are concerned about lead in their drinking water.

Testing the water supply of school districts isn’t mandatory under Utah state law, but since it’s been years since their latest tests, Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality launched a pilot program to go around and collect samples from school districts who volunteered them.

“We were the only school district along the Wasatch Front who did participate,” said Granite School District Spokesman Ben Horsley. “We felt like it was important to know what we have.”

Horsley said there are more than 90 schools in the district that were tested. In total, the DEQ tested 188 schools; so, some came from other districts.

“Based on samples we received, 4 percent came back above the level that the EPA. suggests they take action,” said Donna Kemp Spangler, spokesperson for the DEQ.

Spangler said that they tested two spots at each school, one drinking fountain and a faucet in the kitchen.

“It’s really not about the water itself,” Spangler added. “It’s about the distribution system going through the pipes. There might be older pipes, corrosion, that could cause the detection of lead.”

Spangler adds that schools built before 1985 are more likely to have traces of lead in the water.

“Considering over half of our schools are over 50 years old, that’s pretty good results,” Horsley said.

Horsley said that the school district flushed out all pipes after the initial tests this summer.

“Sometimes the water just gets stale as it sits there,” Horsley adds. “Just like if you go on vacation and the water comes out a little brown when you get home.”

Horsley said that the school district has recently hired a full-time water technician whose sole job will be to go around the district testing water levels. They are the only district in the state taking such actions.

To see a full list of schools tested and what  is being done to address the problem, click here.

The list shows 11 entries at 10 schools with levels of leave above 15 ug/L. As Horsley noted, not all districts participated. A search of the list returned 692 entries out of 948 with "No Data Submitted" in the results category.

  • Bear River Middle School in Box Elder County tested above, and the school has been notified and action is pending.
  • Beehive School in Salt Lake County tested above,  but after re-sampling levels were found below the threshold. The school will continue flushing and sampling.
  • Calvin S. Smith, Salt Lake County, tested above but after re-sampling levels were found below the threshold. The school will continue flushing and sampling.
  • Gerald Wright School, Salt Lake County. Resampling showed levels below the threshold.
  • Granite Technical Institute had two tests above the threshold:
    • A non consumptive faucet was replaced, and resampling at the location found levels below the threshold.
    • Another test a month later at a non-consumptive faucet showed elevated levels and was replaced. Resampling showed levels below threshold.
  • Magna School, Salt Lake County, tested above, but after re-sampling levels were found below the threshold. The school will continue flushing and sampling.
  • North Summit School, Summit County, tested above at a utility sink not used for human consumption. The faucet will be replaced.
  • Silver Hills School, Salt Lake County,  tested above but after re-sampling levels were found below the threshold. The school will continue flushing and sampling.
  • Willard School, Box Elder County, tested above. The school has been notified and action is pending.
  • William Penn School, Salt Lake County, tested above but after re-sampling levels were found below the threshold. The school will continue flushing and sampling, and aerator on the sink was cleaned.