Environment Texas finds some Austin ISD schools, facilities have lead in drinking water

The district's downtown Austin headquarters is one of several properties to be approved for sale by the district's trustees at Monday's meeting.

The district's downtown Austin headquarters is one of several properties to be approved for sale by the district's trustees at Monday's meeting.

The water fountain: a refreshing oasis for students after recess in the September sun. But Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas said it could be dangerous.

"779 schools around Texas have found lead in their drinking water and that's out of about 1,088 that have done testing," Metzger said.

Metzger said there's no state law requiring schools to do the testing so they had to ask districts across the state to do it voluntarily.

During a Tuesday morning press conference the nonprofit told the press, here in Austin ISD, Ridgetop, Sanchez, Widen, Zavala and Barrington Elementary Schools along with the Burger Activity Center and the Noack Sports Complex tested positive for at least some lead in the last year.

In a letter posted on AISD's website, Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz said after the Lower Colorado River Authority's nationally certified lab tested 130 schools in the district they found safe, acceptable levels in the water.

"One school had shown a level of lead in the water above that deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets the standard for water testing. The district immediately replaced the water fountain at that campus and retested the school's water, which then tested safe," Cruz wrote.

"EPA under the 'lead and copper rule' requires that water utilities, if they find lead greater than 15 parts per billion in 10 percent of their samples, the entire water utility is required to take action, anti-corrosion measures to help address the problem of lead system-wide. That standard is never intended to be a health-based standard, never intended to imply to an individual faucet or water fountain," Metzger said.

So basically Metzger is saying that "15 parts per billion" standard for water safety isn't good enough for schools.  He said the Austin ISD properties identified had lead levels above "1 part per billion."

Not even that is safe, according to pediatrician Dr. Whitney Schwarz.

"Very low level lead exposure is associated with intellectual deficits, impairments in academic ability and higher rates of neurobehavioral disorder such as hyperactivity and attention deficits" Schwarz said.

Austin ISD told Fox 7: "The safety and security of our students are our highest priority at Austin ISD. AISD has gone above and beyond what is required of the law by testing lead in water at all schools and its facilities.

Based on the EPA standards for municipalities that distribute drinking water, AISD has tested all of its facilities and found them acceptable. If the case is to have the acceptable level lowered, instead of being particular about school districts, why isn't the focus on the regulatory agency that has oversight in setting the level? AISD should be commended for our voluntary testing the water in all of our 130 schools."

Stephanie Carter has 2 kids in the district. She's testified before the legislature about this issue before.

"I don't feel like it's AISD necessarily, I feel like it's the State of Texas. I feel like the legislature should do something and they should provide the school districts with the funds to make it happen," Carter said.

Environment Texas says immediately Austin ISD should put filters on those water fountains or faucets in question, provide another source of drinking water for students and they need to keep re-testing.

Read the full letter from Cruz here.

Reporting is provided as part of Community Impact Newspaper’s partnership with Fox 7 News
By Fox 7