• PPS Water Quality aims to be among the best in the nation.
    Thanks to an innovative program, PPS schools will soon have some of the lowest lead in water levels in the nation.  Our goal is to achieve an average of less than 1 part per billion (ppb), greatly exceeding state & federal standards (now at 15ppb).  New Drinking Water Stations with advanced lead cleaning filters from 3M are being installed in every PPS school. This forward-thinking program has saved the district millions of dollars in construction costs that can now be used on other Health and Safety programs.

    The project has already reached a majority of schools and will wrap up in early 2023.

    New Drinking Water Station at Vernon

    Summary of PPS Water Quality Program through the Health & Safety Bond
    In May 2016, after finding high levels of lead in some schools, PPS shut off all the drinking fountains and kitchen faucets in district schools and switched to bottled water. In June, 2016, PPS assembled a team of experts including CH2M, an internationally recognized leader in creating water quality solutions, to address the district wide water quality problems in schools. The team began with field surveys to evaluate and test fixtures in every school and identified the fixtures that need replacing.

    After passage of the May 2017 Bond, the team rolled out a plan for District-wide common area fixture replacement, hired contractors to perform the work and developed a set of strict standard operating procedures for performing the work. The team focused on replacing common area fixtures in schools, many of which were turned back on during the first week of school in the fall of 2018. Project teams also tested all in-classroom drinking fountains in schools and facilities where younger students rely on those fixtures.  Any fixtures that still tested above the state threshold of 15 ppb were permanently turned off. Any fixture testing above the state threshold of 15 ppb would likely require an expensive and disruptive replacement of plumbing pipes in the walls of those schools, work that would not necessarily guarantee success.  A new approach was called for.

    Pilot Water Quality Pilot program lowers lead levels to below 1ppb.
    In 2019, the PPS Water Quality Team developed an innovative solution that, if successful, would avoid costly plumbing replacement work and would substantially lower lead levels in those schools’ drinking water to an average below 1 part per billion ppb. A level well below the state threshold of 15 ppb. They created a pilot project that utilized a limited number of strategically located drinking water stations (DWS), each fitted with a highly effective 3M lead filter to provide filtered water to a bottle filler and one or more bubblers. To test their idea, they conducted a pilot study in six schools: Arleta, Duniway, Jefferson, Llewellyn, Rigler and Robert Gray. The schools were selected based on having at least 15 drinking fixtures that had tested above 15 ppb for lead even after their fixtures were replaced. (Those fixtures had been turned off)

    Extensive Pilot Testing shows dramatic lead in water reductions
    The drinking water stations were tested weekly for the first 10 weeks and continued to be tested every second week for the next several months.   Test results showed that the pilot program was an astounding success with lead levels in all pilot schools averaging less than 1ppb. In many fixtures the lead levels are below the testing detectable threshold of 0.2ppb. This positions PPS to have the lowest lead levels of any school district in the country. The filters are replaced yearly. Test results show that the filters will not exceed their 6000-gallon capacity before the end of the school year, when the filters will be replaced.

    Building on Success -  Innovative Water Quality Program rolls out districtwide
    After presenting their findings to the School Board,  a Drinking Water Station Rollout Project was given the green light and is now underway at 93 PPS sites. It is estimated to be completed in the Winter of 2021.  PPS schools will then have some of the lowest lead in water levels in the nation, at an average less than 1 part per billion and greatly exceeding state and federal standards.

    New drinking water stations rely on personal water bottle use
    PPS will be recommending students and staff bring a water bottle to use at school once the new system is in place. There will also be bubblers to drink from at the stations and all will be fully accessible.  A main difference is that there will be fewer places to get water in the school, so having access to a refillable bottle will work best. 

    Water Quality Timeline May 2016 to Early 2020

    • In May 2016, after finding high levels of lead in some schools, PPS shut off all the drinking fountains and kitchen faucets and switched to bottled water. 

    • In June of 2016 PPS assembled a team of experts including CH2M, an internationally recognized leader in creating water quality solutions, to address the District-wide water quality problems in schools. 

    • The May 2017 Bond allocated  $28.5M to reduce lead levels in drinking and food preparation water for all PPS schools. PPS then developed a plan for district wide common area fixture replacement.

    • As of August 2019, PPS has replaced and brought back online the majority of drinking fountains and kitchen faucets in the common areas of most schools. Project teams also turned back on many in-classroom drinking fountains in schools and facilities where younger students rely on those fixtures.

    • The Districtwide Drinking Water Station rollout project is happening at all 93 PPS sites and will be completed early in 2023.  

    What is a safe level of lead in drinking water?
    This is a question for our state and federal health authorities. The Oregon Health Authority recently issued rules that specify that drinking water in schools must be below 15 ppb. PPS is following those standards but through this new program we are working to reduce lead levels to as low as 1 part per billion (1 ppb) in schools across the District.