When it comes to safety in our schools, some potential dangers are invisible ones. Last June, Tacoma Public Schools completed a three-year, water quality testing cycle to detect and address lead in drinking water.
“Students and staff should never have to worry about water quality,” said Jeff Rogers, the district’s Manager of Environmental Health and Safety. “We take pride in the water testing program we’ve developed. And we can say with certainty the drinking water in our schools is safe.”
How water quality works
The last complete water quality testing cycle began in March 2018 with school building samples from drinking water faucets. All final testing results showed lead levels below the maximum threshold, and no fixtures needed replacement, meaning the drinking water is safe.
You can find results from each site, along with testing dates, on our district website. Detailed reports down to the faucet level are available at each school site upon request.
Tacoma Public Schools has tested lead levels in drinking water since 2008. In 2017 the district began a more focused approach using the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) guidance and recommendation of testing drinking water every five years.
Funding from the voter-approved Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which will appear for renewal on the Feb. 8 ballot, has funded the district’s extensive water testing program.
How changes to state law impact water testing in schools
In 2021, the state legislature passed legislation (HB1139), requiring all school districts to develop an action plan for water quality testing. The law also lowers the threshold for acceptable lead levels from 20 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion, following EPA guidance. Additionally, HB1139 outlines DOH’s role of overseeing testing and providing technical assistance and guidance to school districts.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is partnering with DOH, Washington Association of Maintenance and Operations (WAMOA) and representatives from school districts to develop modules and a framework for districts across the state to follow.
“We’ve invited Tacoma Public Schools to be on our advisory committee,” said Randy Newman, OSPI Director, School Facilities and Organization. “They’ve developed some great tools and manuals, and their experience in the field is very helpful. Our goal is to have consistent testing and reporting across the state; my team’s job is to support school districts in getting there.”
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About Tacoma Schools
Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...