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Flathead schools explain how they will test for lead in water

Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 20:55:40-04

KALISPELL — All Montana schools are required by the state to test any site that a person could potentially drink water from.

MTN News spoke with Lakeside-Somers Superintendent Joe Price who explained why lead could be so dangerous for children.

"Well for children, is has an especially negative effect on their cognitive functioning," explained Price. "So, it's kinda the opposite of what we want to do in school. We want to help children learn and grow and lead is going to interfere with that."

He explained that while most schools have plastic pipes, but some of the older schools have lead pipes, "all the buildings will have to be tested, but it's certainly true that we're more likely to find issues in older buildings."

Basic testing is paid for by grant money, but Price said testing is very time consuming. He noted that schools must flush the water system and then let the pipes sit for six hours before testing.

Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau explained to MTN News that just within Flathead High School alone there are over 100 sites that need testing. Because of this, Kalispell schools will be tested over the summer months.

"The manner in which the testing must occur it's really not conducive for a school day just because of the extent of how many sites you have to get to and it has to be the first draw of that spigot," said Flatau.

He noted that the district did lead testing 15 years ago and have a good base line to go off of. Because of this previous testing Flatau says the district has an idea of what replacing pipes would look like. And if need be, pipes could be replaced section by section, depending on what part of the pipe needs repairing.

Price said the state wants to prioritize elementary schools first as younger students are at a higher risk for lead poisoning if there's any lead detected.

Schools have until next December to complete all the testing.