In time for the 2016-17 school year that begins in early September, Roseburg Public Schools announced Thursday that it has completed all lead testing for district-wide water fixtures and test results have been recorded.

“We feel good about the results and we’ve had good conversations with public health,” said Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn.

To find out about the risks of lead exposure through water, the Roseburg School District leadership team contacted Douglas County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer.

Dannenhoffer explained that although lead exposure is a serious concern, the incidence of deriving detrimental affects from lead through drinking water is low unless the lead level is high or a large amount of water is consumed.

“Based on those conversations we feel comfortable knowing that it’s highly unlikely that the kids could have accumulated any significant amounts of lead from water,” Washburn said.

Out of a total of 1,214 water samples tested, 207 of the water sources retested contained more than the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for lead in school water, which is 0.02 parts per million.

Among the tests above the EPA lead limit, 35 of the faucets were drinking bubblers, 168 were sink faucets, and of those, 98 were science lab fixtures. Two more were kitchen sinks and another two belonged to other kitchen equipment. Few of the fixtures used for drinking and meal preparation tested above the EPA limit.

“If you take the science fixtures out of the overall totals, 9 percent of our fixtures were testing positive for lead and most of those were barely over the limit set by the EPA, so we really didn’t have significant exposures anywhere,” Washburn said.

Dannenhoffer also said that blood lead levels of Douglas County children over time show that the county is far below the national levels. This means that county lead poisoning is a low public health risk, compared with the top three county health concerns of smoking, obesity and the use of safety belts.

Those parents concerned about lead exposure in their children are welcome to seek a recommendation from their primary health care provider and to request a blood test for lead.

The district plans to replace all 207 fixtures that were above the EPA lead limit. Those fixtures not replaced before school starts on Sept. 6 will be disabled until fixed. Once replaced, all the fixtures will be tested a third time to ensure they fall below the EPA limit of 0.02 ppm.

Washburn said the overall cost of the project is about $100,000, which includes $39,000 for initial lead testing, $65,000 to change all the fixtures and another $5,000 on retesting faucets to ensure they are clear after replacement.

Washburn added that the school district is doing all that needs to be done to keep district children safe and that some help from the Legislature would be appreciated to ensure that the costs don’t impact instructional programs.

“It’s going to impact our budget, but I am hopeful that the Legislature will follow through with its commitment to supply districts with funds to pay for the testing,” Washburn said.

He also hopes that the state Legislature considers the fact that part of that testing entails replacing those fixtures, since that is a student safety issue and the district has responded to the need expressed by the public.

“We feel pretty good about where we are, and we are looking forward to school starting,” Washburn said.

The number of water fixtures that retested above the EPA limits for lead are listed as follows by school: Eastwood, 1; Fir Grove, 3; Fullerton, 2; Green, 6; Hucrest, 7; Melrose, 14; Rose, 15; Sunnyslope, 2; Winchester, 10; Fremont, 74 (50 are science lab fixtures); JoLane, 71 (48 are science lab fixtures); Roseburg High School, 2; district office, 0.

A complete list of district lead test results will be available today on the RPS website homepage at www.roseburg.k12.or.us. Further questions can be referred to Superintendent Gerry Washburn at 541-440-4014 or by email at gwashburn@roseburg.k12.or.us.

Reporter Vera Westbrook can be reached at 541-957-4216 or vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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Education and Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Vera Westbrook is the education, nonprofits, and arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4216 or by email at vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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