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Lead found in drinking water at Lincoln School in Ashland

After high lead levels were unveiled in a report May 9, the school retested Friday; results still to come

The water supply at Lincoln School in Ashland was tested Friday for the second time after the drinking water in some classrooms was found to have unacceptably high levels of lead.

Ashland School District Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove said the district anticipates having test results the week of May 23 and will update staff and families once officials receive a report.

The superintendent said no families have reported any illnesses as a result of drinking the school’s water, but officials have instructed everyone to not drink it and have come up with an action plan to keep people safe.

No other facilities in the district showed high levels of lead in the current round of testing — done every six years, Bogdanove said. The last time testing was done in 2016, no unacceptably high levels of lead were found, but testing methods have changed since then, the superintendent added.

Lead in drinking water is a well-known health hazard, and the Oregon Health Authority says infants and children are “particularly susceptible” to any problems it may cause, including delays in physical and mental development.

In an email to the newspaper, Bogdanove said families are “understandably concerned” about the situation at Lincoln School, which houses alternative programs for Ashland High School and, for now, students enrolled in the John Muir Outdoor School.

Families and staff at the school were made aware of the lead levels in some classrooms’ water after a report was issued to the district May 9 by Medford-based Neilson Research Corporation.

The report showed that some of the water that was contaminated had lead levels just above the acceptable 15 parts per billion, while other samples were well above that, at 99 or even 128 PPB.

Officials with Neilson Research referred all questions about the situation at Lincoln School to officials with the Ashland School District.

Bogdanove answered those questions and volunteered his letter to families and staff of the school, detailing the plan to keep everyone safe.

Spigots in impacted classrooms have been turned off, and every room — regardless of whether the water showed elevated lead levels — has been provided with three cases of water.

Students have received instructions to drink bottled water while at school and, while restroom water sources remain on, signs are posted that say, “NOT POTABLE - DO NOT DRINK.” The district will continue to provide bottled water throughout the building until tap water can be made potable.

“Once we identify the source, we will work toward mitigation strategies and ultimately create a plan for resolution,” the superintendent wrote.

The plan might include a testing schedule that is “above the state requirements,” he said.

Bogdanove said that the source of contamination could be pipes, fittings or the water supply. An OHA handout on lead in drinking water says the chemical element most commonly comes from leaching household plumbing, or — in rare cases — through erosion of natural deposits in the earth’s crust.

In his letter to families and staff, Bogdanove assured people he would keep them informed about the water supply at Lincoln School and that they could “reach out to me directly” with any questions.

Lincoln School has been part of the Ashland School District for nearly 100 years, according to the school district website. The original building was constructed in 1926, and the most recent addition was added in 1961. Lincoln School served elementary students until 2005, when the program was closed due to declining enrollment. Since then, ASD has continued to use Lincoln for its high school alternative program, some district offices, and this year as the temporary home for John Muir Outdoor School.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.