• Water quality pilot program seeks to lower lead levels in water to 1ppb

    Despite replacing all the common area water fixtures in the district, several schools still have a large number of drinking fixtures that test above the state-mandated action level of 15 ppb for lead.  These fixtures remain off and will now require extensive in-the-wall partial pipe replacement costing several million dollars with no guarantee of success.  At the same time there is also a growing movement on both the state and national level to reduce the lead levels even further. 

    An innovative program that reduces lead and save money
    To proactively address this issue, the Water Quality Team in the Office of School Modernization is conducting a pilot study in six schools that could potentially lower bond capital costs while substantially lowering lead levels in our schools’ drinking water to around 1ppb.  The program is something no other school district in Oregon is doing! 

    Six Schools Selected for the pilot program
    The district plans to test the pilot program in one high school, two middle schools and three elementary schools. The schools were selected based on having at least 15 drinking fixtures that still tested above 15 ppb for lead after their fixtures were replaced.  Those schools are Arleta, Duniway, Jefferson, Llewellyn, Rigler and Robert Gray. 

    Drinking Water Stations with advanced lead cleaning filters
    The plan is to install a limited number of strategically located drinking water stations (DWS) in six PPS schools. Each station would be fitted with a highly effective lead filter providing filtered water to a bottle filler and one or more bubblers.  This approach could substantially reduce the number of drinking fixtures in each school while potentially reducing the lead levels to below one ppb. The existing drinking water fixtures in the common areas and classrooms of the six schools would be made non-accessible during the pilot testing.

    Filter performance will be rigorously monitored/Results available online
    Filter performance would be rigorously monitored during the pilot study, evaluating lead levels and estimating filter maintenance costs. Testing will be done every two weeks and the results can be found here.  These high efficiency filters are designed to last long enough to provide an elementary school with 425 students and staff nearly two, twenty-ounce bottles of water per person, per day during the course of an entire school year.

    Find the test results for each pilot program school here.

    Pilot Program is scheduled to last 6 months
    Currently the program is scheduled to take place from the summer 2019 to January of 2020. This will allow us to calculate annual maintenance costs. If Drinking Water Station performance is still acceptable at the end of this period, we will likely continue the program at the six schools. If this pilot project proves successful, we will look at expanding to all PPS schools.

  • Pilot Water Quality program FAQs

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    What is the Pilot Water Quality Program?
    The plan is to place 32 specially designed and engineered Drinking Water Stations (DWS) in six schools over the summer with a goal of reducing lead levels to as low as 1 part per billion (ppb). These drinking fixtures include state-of-the art filters that can make dramatic reductions in the lead content of drinking water. We will test the water on a weekly basis to ensure the DWS are working correctly. If the program proves successful, we will expand to more schools. We believe this will allow us to reduce lead levels while lowering costs to PPS.

    How were the pilot schools chosen?
    The district plans to include one high school, two middle schools and three elementary schools in the pilot study. The schools were selected based on having at least 15 drinking fixtures that still tested above 15 ppb for lead after their fixtures were replaced. Those schools are Arleta, Duniway, Jefferson, Llewellyn, Rigler and Robert Gray. 

     Why is the pilot program needed? Didn’t we fix most of the drinking fixtures?
    The traditional approach to reduce lead levels in water is to replace fixtures followed by replacing plumbing behind the wall if needed. We have done that with 2,600 fixtures. However, more than 500 fixtures continue to test above the state action level of 15 ppb. We believe there may be a less expensive and more effective approach to reduce lead levels, minimize costs and potentially maximize results. This pilot program would allow us to determine installation and maintenance costs while also confirming effectiveness to reduce lead levels.

    How will the pilot program reduce lead levels to 1 ppb?
    We are installing a limited number of strategically located custom engineered drinking water stations (DWS) in each pilot school. Each DWS will have two bubblers and a bottle filler to supply filtered water that is at or below 1 ppb for lead. To accomplish this, we have researched National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified filtering systems designed to reduce average lead levels to 1 ppb over a life cycle operating capacity of a minimum of 6,000 gallons.

    How can we trust PPS that this will be safe?
    During the summer we will install the custom engineered DWS followed by extensive weekly testing and monitoring to confirm that these units are performing as designed. We will continue the weekly monitoring, tracking lead levels for the first month of school in the fall. Periodic monitoring will continue to the end of the 2019 calendar year. The test results will be made available online for everyone to see.

    What are the level levels in my school(s)?
    The lead levels at faucets vary throughout each school but those with green signs are below the PPS and Oregon Health Authority action level of 15 ppb. This is the same level that the Environmental Protection Agency requires in homes. You can go online at pps.net/Page/5378 to see the levels for each faucet in a school. Scroll to your school & click on the 2017-2018 results.

    Why didn’t you use filters before?
    PPS has used filters in the past. However, the filters were not properly selected and maintained.  During the investigation of water fixtures in 2016, a total of 920 filters were discovered, yet no established maintenance program existed and many of the filters were not effective in reducing lead.

    Will the pilot study save the district money?
    If the pilot study is successful, the district may save the millions of dollars necessary to replace plumbing.  At the same time, the lead levels could be much lower.

    How often will the filters be changed?
    This is one of the data points that will be determined during the pilot. At this point we believe that these filters will last between six months and one year.

    How will PPS guarantee that the filters will be changed on time?
    We will monitor each DWS to track lead levels until the filter needs to be changed. This will also provide an accurate estimate of annual maintenance costs. 

    How long does the pilot program run?
    Currently the program is scheduled to take place from the summer 2019 to January of 2020.   This will allow us to calculate annual maintenance costs. If Drinking Water Station performance is still acceptable at the end of this period, we will likely continue the program at the six schools. If this pilot project proves successful, we will look at expanding to all PPS schools.

    When will you know if this is a success?
    We will evaluate the results in January of 2020 and from there determine next steps.

     How much will the pilot program cost?
    The pilot is projected to cost $220,000. This is compared with $1.2 million to partially replace plumbing for the six schools. We estimate it would cost a little over $3 million to install DWS across the entire district.

    What if I don’t want my child to participate in this pilot program?
    PPS will make a limited number of bottled water stations available. However, keep in mind that each DWS in the pilot will be performing as designed if the pilot project is active.      

    What happens to the regular drinking fixtures at the school?
    The existing drinking fixtures will be disabled during the pilot program.   

    Do the students and staff need to do anything different to use the custom engineered drinking water stations?
    We are recommending student and staff bring a water bottle. There will also be bubblers to drink from at the stations. 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.

    What is a safe level of lead in drinking water?
    This is a question for our state and federal health authorities. Oregon Health Authority recently issued rules that specify that drinking water in schools must be below 15 ppb. PPS is in compliance with those standards but through this pilot program we believe that it may be technically and economically possible to reduce lead levels to as low as 1 part per billion (1 ppb) in schools across the district.