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PPS Lewis Elementary School Lead-In-Water Levels

While eyes are focused on the crisis in Flint, Michigan right now, lead exposure via contamination in municipal water delivery systems is a problem that is much, much greater than the current crisis in one city, or even a handful of cities; it is a huge issue—one that should potentially concern parents in virtually every city in the U.S.: neurotoxic lead leaching into in municipal water systems (through a panoply of sources) is an endemic problem, intrinsic to the aging infrastructure in this country [and greatly exacerbated by corrosive elements–whether these are added, in the form of Chloramine + Fluoride, or are naturally occurring in some sources, as may have been the case in Flint].

The following screenshot is of the lead-in-water levels at Lewis Elementary School in Portland, Oregon [a Portland Public Schools (PPS) facility constructed in the 1950s].

This is from a report released on August 24, 2001 (as noted at the top of the screenshot). Please click the screenshot for the full three pages. To my knowledge there has not been a comprehensive / updated water testing round for the PPS system since this testing was done in 2001.

The current hazard level for lead in water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). The new recommended hazard level for lead in water (recommended by scientists with no financial interest in the issue – a recommendation based solely on the public health concern) is 5 ppb. [Five parts per billion].

Levels in this report are as high as 93 ppb.

To view the full 3-page summary for Lewis Elementary School, click the image below.

[To get to the source page for this data (for Lewis Elementary and all other PPS schools that were tested in 2001) on the Portland Public Schools website, click HERE.]

Yesterday (Wednesday, January 13, 2016) my 7 year old son was made to drink from the sink in the gym. He was not allowed to get his bottle of  filtered water from home in his backpack. He was not given one of the backup water bottles I had given the gym teacher for “emergencies” (e.g. if he forgets to bring his own water bottle to gym.)

To my knowledge (based on the report below), the gym sink water has not been tested – but the fountain in the gym was positive for 5 ppb lead in this test. [Based on experience, I would assume the levels have likely gone up over time with corrosion – although this is, as I said,  an assumption.]

There is no excusable reason for school employees (teachers or otherwise) to make my son drink water from a public school fountain when

  1. The school water system has a history of lead levels that are much higher than what is acceptable (by either current Federal – legislated – or current scientific – protective of children’s health – standards)
  2. The sink my son was made to drink from was never tested
  3. To my knowledge no follow up testing has been done since 2001 (& with normal aging of components these lead levels [in the school’s water] have likely increased since the 2001 testing)
  4. Filtration systems throughout the Portland Public School system that were put in place as a result of this testing done in 2001 have not been maintained with the frequency required by their manufacturer/ the frequency required for the filtration systems to be effective
  5. My son has disabilities and illnesses as a result of his (documented) history of lead exposure.

In the case of my own sons, it is a medically necessitated action that their teachers only allow them to drink filtered water from home (because of their documented prior lead exposure). However, it could be argued that in a city like ours, with well-documented, widespread water-borne lead hazards, it constitutes a crime against the local school children that in the last 15 years the only remediation that has been done regarding this hazard is to employ the use of filtration systems that need perpetual monitoring and 3rd party oversight—which monitoring and 3rd party oversight is not being done, as it cannot be afforded in the Portland Public School system today.

A simple solution until they can fix this problem would be to have 5 gallon (10 gallon?) water delivery to a free-standing independent water dispensation system in the gym for all the children to use freely.


-Tamara Rubin
Parent of Lead Poisoned Children
Portland, Oregon



5 Responses to PPS Lewis Elementary School Lead-In-Water Levels

  1. Carissa Bonham January 14, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    I would be one pissed off mama bear! How did your confrontation with the school go (I’m assuming you confronted them?)

    • Tamara January 14, 2016 at 9:49 am #

      I just sent them an email this morning. Teachers are on board. I cc’d the press and the school attorney and the school facilities director. No response from any of them yet!

  2. Laura February 1, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    Hi Tamara – I have been following you for years, thank you for all you do! Quick question, here you posted your child’s school’s water results. Do you know if EVERY public school in the US is (has to be) tested? I’m trying to figure out if our school was tested. Best, Laura

    • Tamara February 3, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      There is no law requiring that all U.S. schools identify existing lead hazards (either in water or paint dust.)

  3. Ashley June 5, 2016 at 11:25 am #


    I am a parent of a Lewis school student. I was shocked to find this article. I stumbled across your article when I was looking for any new information on lead linked with Lewis. Just this week we received an email, multiple emails, admitting the lead problem in the water, and immediate shifting the blame around.

    Seeing as your article was posted in January, I am appalled that we are only just now hearing about this issue. The faucets and drinking fountains were just recently closed off to the staff and students. My current concern right now is my daughters symptoms, the most concerning being her short term memory loss. The mass of emails state they will be opening free clinics to do lead poisoning tests. But its too little too late in my opinion.

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