© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Progress report: St. Louis schools abandon a dozen water sources due to lead

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.

Updated Dec. 9, 2016 with the results of the most recent tests — St. Louis Public Schools officials are still working on replacing water pipes, fountains and sinks that tested positive for lead.

Most of the nearly 90 sources have passed most-recent testing, but three fountains and nine sinks have been abandoned. Another eight fountains failed the most recent lead tests, and officials are waiting for results on four other fountains.

Original story from Oct. 20 — Of the 88 drinking water sources shut off at St. Louis Public Schools due to elevated lead levels in August, 30 sinks and eight fountains have been repaired.

But the district is still trying to locate the source of the problem in 10 sinks, and custom-made fountains had to be ordered so that 40 water fountains could be replaced.

“We have more buildings than anybody in the state of Missouri, so we knew that it would take some time to get done,” said Superintendent Kelvin Adams. “We did not anticipate that it would take this long to get the fountains ordered and in. But that process has now taken place.”

The new fountains arrived this week and will begin being installed Friday.

“The whole notion at the end of the day is about safety for kids. And so we think even if we take a little bit longer than what we anticipated, because we said Oct. 31 (and) it might be a couple of weeks into November before this happens, a couple of weeks is well worth it to make sure it’s done in the right way,” Adams said.

Lead in the schools: What you need to know

Roger CayCe, the deputy superintendent of operations, who has the job of making sure the fountains and sinks are safe, said Thursday the goal is to have all of the water fountains installed and tested for lead by the end of November.

“We don’t know if they’re going to correct the problem. Like with some of the sinks, we still had some that we still have to go back and investigate and look,” CayCe said. “We’re hoping that we’re not running into a piping problem. In our sinks we’ve been pretty fortunate so far.”

“We haven’t had to replace any pipes as of yet. And we’re hoping that that’s not the case,” CayCe added. “If it’s so, then we may have to make a determination to either abandon that water source and maybe run different pipes or replace pipes. But we haven’t gotten to that yet.”

The district tested all drinking water sources before the school year started, and found almost a dozen with levels 10 to 20 times the level deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lead exposure can reduce IQs, cause behavioral changes and alter brain development.

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.