Drinking water at select Hawaii schools to be tested for lead

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii will participate in a nationwide program to test tap water at selected public schools and child care facilities for the presence of lead.

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The joint project between the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE), Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) begins in February and will continue through the end of the year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is granting the state $222,000 to pay for the project. Hawaii’s contribution is an additional $696,000 from the technical assistance set-aside portion of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

“Hawaii has been fortunate in that we have not experienced the same types of challenges with lead contamination as we have seen in the continental United States, so it’s important to note this project is a precautionary measure,” Hawaii Toxicologist Dr. Diana Felton said in a news release Friday. “Historically, public water systems in Hawaii have not had lead contamination. However, it is possible for lead to contaminate drinking water through fixtures and piping within a school or child care facility, particularly in older buildings, so we want to make sure keiki are safe.”

Lead is a heavy metal that has been used for infrastructure, including pipes. Long-term effects of childhood lead exposure can result in problems with learning, school performance, attention and health problems.

“If any of the samples result in the presence of lead above action levels, the water at those schools will be shut off within 24 hours or the next school day and will no longer be available for use,” said Dr. Felton. “Follow-up testing will be conducted, and plans will be developed to address the cause of the lead contamination.”

The results of a water sampling will be sent to each facility or school to post in their administrative office. They will also be posted on the WIIN project website.

Schools and child care facilities were selected based on the age of the buildings, the children who are served at the schools, among other factors.

Click here for a list of schools and child care facilities to be tested.

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