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Bethel school takes steps to get lead out of drinking water

Release Date: 12/6/2005
Contact Information: Vaughn Blethen
blethen.vaughn@epa.gov
(206) 553-0483


December 06, 2005


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the The Lower Kuskokwim School District in Bethel, Alaska is now taking action to prevent children from being exposed to unsafe levels of lead in drinking water at the Kilbuck Elementary School. The actions are the result of an EPA order issued to the school district in November. The Kilbuck Elementary School system serves about 370 students and staff.

Under the order, in addition to flushing the drinking water system each morning, the school district is also required to take steps to control corrosion in the system's pipes and notify users of the system about the quality of the drinking water.

"The water operators have been routinely running the water fountains each morning before school in order to reduce any lead that may have leached from the pipes and appliances overnight," said Vaughn Blethen, EPA Enforcement Officer. "While this is effective in reducing the immediate levels of lead, it is not an acceptable long-term solution to the problem."

The school district recently received $1.2 million from the State of Alaska to permanently upgrade the water system. Until that project is complete, the school is required to continue flushing the system each day and testing the water twice a year to ensure that the flushing is reducing lead to safe levels. If sample results indicate unsafe levels of lead remain in the water after flushing, the school district is required to notify the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
(ADEC).

ADEC has primary responsibility for enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA retains oversight responsibility for the Drinking Water Program and works with ADEC when state enforcement efforts fail. The school district has been cooperating with ADEC after being contacted by EPA earlier this year.

Exposure to lead in drinking water may lead to delays in physical or mental development of infants and children, and kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and plumbing.



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