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Lead found in drinking water at Hawaii public schools

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Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 23, 2021

HONOLULU (AP) -- Testing of drinking water at Hawaii's public schools found at least 93 faucets and fountains have elevated concentrations of lead.

The contaminated water was found among 2,232 sampled taps at 58 schools on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday. Testing on Oahu began in July, and the results will be released as they become available.

An additional four taps with elevated levels of lead were found among 100 sampled sources at 70 child care centers in the state.

The results show elevated lead in about 4% of the samples collected so far, officials said.

The water testing returned lead concentrations above a project action level of 15 parts per billion.

State officials said the compromised fixtures were taken out of commission, and the facilities were notified.

"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," Michael Miyahira, acting branch chief of the Department of Health's Safe Drinking Water Branch, said in a statement.

Faucet fixtures appeared to be the problem in most cases, but follow-up testing will reveal if plumbing is to blame, Miyahira said.

This is the first time Hawaii's public schools have been comprehensively tested for lead in drinking water. The state received a $222,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to do the testing.

The Department of Education said it will evaluate plumbing where results show high lead levels and replace fixtures in any contaminated areas.

Comparable testing on the U.S. mainland has shown contamination in about 5% to 6% of samples taken, officials said.