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Drinking Fountains At 6 Madison Schools Test Positive For Unsafe Lead Levels

157 Drinking Fountains Tested, 14 Positive

Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

Six schools in Madison had at least one drinking fountain test positive for unsafe lead levels, according to results of tests ordered by the school district.

Last week, the Madison Metropolitan School District received results from testing water from 157 drinking fountains in 13 schools. Fourteen of those fountains tested positive for lead levels above the national standard of 15 parts per billion.

“Many of the ones that failed were really close to that 15 parts per billion, somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 15, there were a few … that were higher than that,” Chad Wiese, director of building and technical services for the district, said.

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Wiese said many of the fountains that tested positive were older.

“The old porcelain ones, we believe have probably some lead components or at least a higher percentage of brass, which can also bring the lead levels up in some sampling, so we’re going to go ahead and replace those altogether,” Wiese said.

Young children can experience serious health issues like problems with their nervous system when they are exposed to even low levels of lead, according to the EPA.

One of the schools with contaminated drinking fountains was Lowell Elementary. Principal John Burkholder told the Wisconsin State Journal that he wrote a letter to parents saying that the contaminated fountains haven’t been used this school year because they are inaccessible to students due to construction.

Wiese said the district has disabled the contaminated fountains in all six schools and is working on getting them fixed. The district plans to test all of the drinking fountains in every school by the end of this month.

It’s not a requirement for the school district to test for lead in their water. They tested their water voluntarily after a few months of inquiries about lead from parents, staff, students and the president of the Madison Water Utility Board, Wiese said.

Lowell Elementary School had two positive drinking fountains; Lapham Elementary School had three; Sherman Middle School had one; East High School had one; and Gompers Elementary School and Black Hawk Middle School, which is considered one site with two different buildings, had seven.