School districts expect to pay at least $10,000 to test water for lead and other chemicals

The Corvallis School District is preparing to spend about $15,000 on water testing. Gov. Kate Brown now made annual testing mandatory for Oregon school districts. The tests will look for lead and radon in each water fixture. (SBG image)

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Oregon Department of Education says it wants to require all of the state's public schools to test for lead in the drinking water.

The Corvallis School District is one of nearly 200 districts in Oregon that will test its water for lead and other dangerous chemicals after Gov. Kate Brown directed the Oregon Department of education to draft new rules to address environmental health factors in public schools.

The proposed rules ask school districts to create a plan for monitoring and testing.

The Board of Education will vote on the plan in August. If it passes, a testing requirement will go into effect immediately. Until then, nothing is permanent.

The testing will cost some school districts $10,000. Corvallis says the process could take all summer.

"We anticipate around $15,000 in testing fees and labor for collecting samples," said Kim Patten, Corvallis School District facilities director.

Schools plan to spend thousands during summer break in an effort to provide a safe source of water for students.

For the Corvallis School District, that means testing the water for 13 schools, a total of more than 1,000 fixtures.

"I'm hopeful that the testing will come back with excellent results," Patten said.

She says the expense might cause some things to be cut from summer maintenance projects.

"We're hopeful that the state will come up with funding to help us pay for some of this testing," Patten said.

Corvallis School District hired Analytical Laboratories from Eugene to test their water. They already use the company for quarterly water samplings, but this will be a more comprehensive test.

"Well we didn't have plans this summer, to do the lead testing. We have been working on radon testing plan. We did our first school testing this last school year and came out with no significant findings. Everything was below action levels," Patten said.

Eugene 4-J School District hired PBS Environmental and Engineering Company.

4-J estimates the test could cost at least $25,000. Even with different companies, the cost can dig deeper.

"Remediation is extremely expensive! A new fixture can easily run hundreds of dollars and if the fixture is the issue. If it's deeper, it could be piping. You could end up with replacing piping in an entire school," Patten said.

She said the financial repercussions for the cost of the water testing are still unknown.

"I haven't determined that. I want to see when the results come in and then we'll work with an environmental specialist to make a cautious plan for the district," she said.

Bethel School District estimates the expense will cost more than $10,000.

Patten said, like most other schools, they begin testing the first week of July.

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