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School districts, cities say water has been tested for lead


Christopher Andersson

Arlington School District maintenance department worker Tony Hayes demonstrates how he takes samples of water with one of the testing bottles to ensure safe lead levels at the district.

Because of Flint, Mich., and the Tacoma School District the dangers of lead in the water are in the news again, but local officials say that water in Marysville and Arlington has been tested and is within safe ranges.

Lead in drinking water has been linked to a number of health problems in children including behavioral problems, lower IQ, slowed growth and anemia according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. government agencies have been working long before the Flint, Mich. to get less and less lead in drinking water.

Tony Hayes, a maintenance department worker at the Arlington School District, recalls around 20 years ago working in the Marysville School District working to "aggressively" replace any fixture that could contribute to lead levels.

When he got to Arlington the federal Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act took effect on Jan. 4, 2014, and he went through a new round of making sure lead levels were low at local schools.

"Here we are today, doing the same thing as 20 years ago," he said.

Kevin Nielsen, Marysville's Public Works director, said that dirty water was one of the biggest causes of death around the world and that sometimes we take for granted how good the water can be locally.

"And then something like Flint, Michigan, happens and it's this big anomaly," he said.


Jim Kelly, Arlington's Public Works director, said that the city started sampling their water in the early 2000s.

"We have very low levels of lead in our water," said Kelly.

When last tested in 2015, the city's water had between one to three parts per billion of lead.

Kelly notes that all water is likely to have some lead in it, and the safe level determined by the U.S. EPA is below 15 parts per billion, which Arlington's water is well below.

None of the water in Arlington's homes tested above that level either, he said.

Currently, the majority of the city's water comes from Haller Well Field and the Airport Well Field, and about 10 percent comes from Snohomish PUD.

While the city's water used to be tested every year, because of their low levels they now only have to test every three years, said Kelly.

When tested, samples from residential homes and the city's water sources are sent to the Washington State Department of Health.

At the Arlington School District, Hayes said maintenance workers have been "aggressively changing out our fixtures," and he is currently working on a new round of sampling from all of the schools which are in the process of being tested.

Hayes notes that his kids are enrolled in the district and he lives in the area, "so who better to take this seriously."

Andrea Conley, public information officer for the district, said the district has to worry less because there is not as many old buildings.

"Our newer buildings were built to code and the plumbing is fairly new so they don't have any issues," she said.

Maintenance and upgrading of fixtures takes place in the older buildings, she said.


On May 3, the Marysville School District voluntarily tested all their water fountains and sinks and found five fountains that were above the maximum reporting level, while the remaining 215 of their water sites were found to be safe.

The lead levels were only slightly elevated, at about 23 parts per billion, compared to the EPA's rule of 15 parts per billion. In the Tacoma School District, lead levels were reported as high as 2,300 parts per billion.

The five sites found with higher levels were found at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Marshall Elementary School and the district's offices.

All of those fountains were marked unusable and replaced the day after the district received the test results, according to coordinator of communications and community relations for the district Emily Wicks.

"The Marysville School District's highest priorities include the safety of our students, and full and transparent communication with our students, staff, parents, and community. The district has performed testing on a case-by-case basis over the years, but this is the first time a district-wide test was performed," said Marysville School District Superintendent Becky Berg in a statement.

At the city, Nielsen said that Marysville officials have been working on lead for more than 20 years.

"The Lead and Copper Rule went into effect in 1991 and we've been in compliance with that rule since then," said Nielsen.

The city gets its water from the Lake Goodwin well, Edwards Springs in Marysville, the Stillaguamish Filtration Plant and from the city of Everett.

"We've been studying all of our records for goosenecks [a type of lead piping], which seemed to be the problem in Tacoma, and we can't find any goosenecks in our system we have right now, but that doesn't mean there isn't some that got put in during the 1930s, 1940s," Nielsen said.

He notes that though their records go back to the 1930s and 1940s, those records aren't always complete.

"We do test the homes for the highest risk of lead and copper, historically, from our records," he said.

The city has set up a page at with more information about the city's water and what to do if you want to get your water tested.


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