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State detects lead in drinking water at select Hawaii schools, child care facilities

The state has detected lead in drinking water at certain Hawaii schools.
The state has detected lead in drinking water at certain Hawaii schools.(Hawaii Department of Health)
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:53 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 11:38 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A recent statewide investigation showed the presence of lead in drinking water at select Hawaii schools and child care facilities, the Hawaii Department of Health said.

According to the DOH, roughly 4% of water samples from faucets and drinking fountains at those schools showed high levels of lead.

As a result, water from those sources are no longer being used as the state continues to monitor and test.

The investigation, launched in February, is part of a nationwide program to test drinking water sources from classroom and kitchen sink faucets and drinking fountains.

The project will test 106 public elementary schools and 123 Department of Human Services-licensed child care facilities. So far, the state has tested 58 schools and 70 child care facilities in mostly Hawaii, Kauai and Maui counties. About 93 of the 2,232 sampled taps at schools showed high levels of lead above 15 parts per billion, while four of 100 sampled taps at child care facilities also had high levels.

Across the islands, the schools that reported the highest levels of lead included Kalanianaole Elementary on Hawaii Island — with 398 ppb from one water source — and Haiku Elementary School on Maui — with 301 ppb from one of its sources. The highest levels on Kauai came from Kapaa Elementary School — 74 ppb — and Wilcox Elementary School — 49 ppb.

The overall levels in Hawaii are still lower than the mainland, which had rates of about 5% to 6%.

“The schools and child care facilities were notified immediately upon the receipt of the results and those water sources are no longer in use,” said Michael Miyahira, acting branch chief of DOH’s safe drinking water branch, in a statement. “We would like to assure the community that taps that had elevated levels of lead will not be used for drinking or food preparation until the problem is fixed.”

The DOE is working on a plan to replace affected fixtures and evaluate plumbing issues.

Phase 2 of the project is slated to begin next summer. The state has filed an application with the Environmental Protection Agency for additional funding to test 73 elementary schools and 30 public charter schools.

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