PORTLAND, Ore. – Testing found lead in paint debris and dust at a Portland public elementary school, and the district said Tuesday it knows there are other schools with the same problems.
The news comes after high levels of lead were found at water fountains, sinks and spigots in Portland Public Schools buildings, including some that tested so high they were over the EPA's threshold for toxic waste.
The testing in an outdoor area at Alameda Elementary School found lead levels higher than state standards. The area near the playground has been cordoned off. The district said it will hire outside contractors to help clean up and repaint where needed.
The results concerned parents with children the area.
Virginia La Forte was speechless after hearing paint chips in the school's courtyard area tested positive for lead. But it confirmed something she already knew.
La Forte said back in 2014, she complained about lead in the paint.
Her concern is for the kids who often play at the nearby playground and come to the school for summer day camp.
“It's a hazard area and you can't cover it with a plastic bag like you can cover a drinking fountain. They need to address it,” said La Forte.
Portland Public Schools says it is addressing it.
“We know that Alameda, there are concerns there, but we have concerns at all of our schools. So how do we take a look at them to make sure we're treating them all the same and get to them as quick as possible,” said Christine Miles.
“I just think it's sad that it's gotten this far,” said Joanne Peitzsch who has a grandson who’s five years old. “We don't know how many children have been affected.”
That's what parents are worried about. Multnomah County Health officials increased the number of free lead testing clinics in light the lead issues at Portland schools.
Perry Cabot, the Senior Program Specialist in charge of the lead poisoning prevention program with the county, said they’ve also seen more people attend the clinics, worried about their level of exposure to lead.
“We don't know of any safe level of lead in our blood. We can't say it's okay to have a certain amount,” said Cabot.
Miles said many Portland school buildings need to be painted and the district is analyzing which schools should be a priority, starting with those that teach kids from pre-kindergarten through second grade.