Some Arizona schools have lead in drinking water

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At least 26 Arizona schools have lead in their drinking water. (Source: 3TV/CBS5) At least 26 Arizona schools have lead in their drinking water. (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
Andalucia Middle School had the most "exceedances, with failed water tests in three locations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Andalucia Middle School had the most "exceedances, with failed water tests in three locations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
There has never been a documented case of lead poisoning linked to drinking water in Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) There has never been a documented case of lead poisoning linked to drinking water in Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Early results of a sweeping effort to test drinking water at Arizona public schools have revealed elevated levels of lead in at least 26 schools with hundreds still to be tested.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has posted test results for 123 schools, meaning roughly one out of five schools tested so far has had levels of lead exceeding federal guidelines in at least one of its buildings.

Seven schools in the Alhambra Elementary District, which serves children in Phoenix and Glendale, had lead levels exceeding federal guidelines, according to state records. One of those seven schools is now a family resource center, according to district spokesperson Linda Jeffries.

Alhambra district staff tested water quality in every building in January and early February.

"In most instances within the seven locations, it was one sink or one drinking fountain in a classroom or a building that was not frequently used by students," Jeffries said.

Andalucia Middle School had the most "exceedances,” with failed water tests in three locations, she said.

Jeffries said the lead issues appear to be isolated to certain older fixtures. Lead from old pipes or fixtures can slowly leach into the water as it idles inside.

She said staff immediately shut off affected fixtures, posted "no drinking" signs and sent letters home to notify parents.

"There's nothing to be worried about. It is not a school-wide or system-wide problem," she said.

ADEQ plans to collect data on more than 1,200 schools. Screening of high-risk schools should be completed by June, said ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera. The department considers schools built before the 1987 ban on lead pipes and those serving children under five to be at high risk.

Cabrera said the department measures the number of failed tests by individual buildings within a school. When evaluating that metric, about 2.5 percent of school buildings tested had elevated levels of lead.

There has never been a documented case of lead poisoning linked to drinking water in Arizona, he said.

"Because exposures due to drinking water are so low, there's no need for panic," he said, "but out of an abundance of care we're doing this program so that we can understand and get our arms around what those potential exposures might be."

Tolleson Union High School also had lead exceeding the federal screening level of 15 parts per billion. The school sent a letter to parents notifying them of the results on March 3, the same day the school was notified.

"While all of the school's water sources are safe for hand washing and toilet use, we are taking this extremely seriously," the letter states, adding that "all drinking fountains and water faucets that did not meet safe standards have been taken offline."

The school is now awaiting the results of a second round of testing to see if common methods of alleviating lead levels are effective, said spokesman Joseph Ortiz. The most common method is flushing, where staff members run water fountains for several minutes before students are permitted to drink from them.

Concerned parents should instruct their children to run water fountains for about a minute before taking a sip, Cabrera said. The department has other tips and information here.

The following schools had lead levels in one of or more water fixtures above 15 parts per billion. The full results are available here.

  1. Andalucia Middle School, Alhambra Elementary District
  2. Barcelona Middle School, Alhambra Elementary District
  3. Catalina Ventura School, Alhambra Elementary District
  4. Cordova Middle School, Alhambra Elementary District
  5. Cordova Primary School (now a family resource center), Alhambra Elementary District
  6. Granada East School, Alhambra Elementary District
  7. Westwood Primary School, Alhambra Elementary District
  8. Alpine Elementary School, Alpine Elementary District
  9. Apache Junction High School, Apache Junction Unified District
  10. Blue Ridge High School, Blue Ridge Unified District
  11. Blue Ridge Intermediate School, Blue Ridge Unified District
  12. Casa Grande Middle School, Casa Grande Elementary District
  13. Palo Verde School, Casa Grande Elementary District
  14. Saguaro Elementary School, Casa Grande Elementary District
  15. Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School, Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary District
  16. Crane Middle School, Crane Elementary District
  17. Paul H Huber Middle School, Douglas Unified District
  18. W F Killip Elementary School, Flagstaff Unified District
  19. Kyrene Aprende Middle School, Kyrene Elementary District
  20. Kyrene Altadena Middle School, Kyrene Elementary District
  21. Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle, Kyrene Elementary District
  22. Fort Thomas High School, Fort Thomas Unified District
  23. Madison Meadows School, Madison Elementary District
  24. San Manuel High School, Mammoth-San Manuel Unified District
  25. Tolleson Union High School, Tolleson Union High School District
  26. Gwyneth Ham Elementary School, Yuma Elementary District

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This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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