Posted: August 13, 2019

APS Remedies Elevated Lead Levels in Water

All but one fixture that tested above the recommended level was repaired or replaced over the summer.

Under a federally funded program sponsored by the state health and environment departments, APS took more than a thousand water samples since April and tested them for lead. The samples came from 870 fixtures including sinks and fountains at 69 elementary schools built before 1990. In 1986, federal laws were changed to limit the use of lead in pipes to better protect the water supply.  

Of the initial 870 samples taken at APS elementary schools, 96 percent tested at levels below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 0.015 mg/L.

Thirty-seven fixtures at 23 schools had a least one sample test above the recommended level. These schools were Alameda, Alvarado, Apache, Arroyo del Oso, Barcelona, Bellehaven, Dennis Chavez, East San Jose, Hawthorne, Hodgin, Inez, Lavaland, Lew Wallace, Longfellow, Lowell, Mary Ann Binford, Matheson Park, Mission Ave., Monte Vista, Painted Sky, Reginald Chavez, San Antonito, and Zia.

The problems came mostly from classroom sinks and bubblers, which are small drinking fountains in classroom sinks. APS repaired, upgraded, and replaced these fixtures, and in most cases, that took care of the problem, with subsequent testing measuring below the actionable level. 

In a few cases, fixtures were eliminated or designated for hand-washing only. A classroom sink at Mary Ann Binford Elementary School was the only fixture still out of service and undergoing testing when school started on Monday, Aug. 12.

APS was one of a handful of school districts in the state to volunteer for the water-testing program through the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Department of Health. Schools are not required to test for lead in water, but APS officials felt it was in the public’s best interest to deal with this potential health risk.

APS continues to work closely with the state Environment Department and the Department of Health. The district will begin testing fixtures at older middle schools and high schools that have early childhood programs starting the week of Aug. 19. 

APS also continues to address brown water problems at a few of its older schools, which is not a health hazard like lead is but can be unpalatable.

While testing was free through the federal grant, all repairs are paid for by the district. APS plans to go to voters in the fall to ask for a continuation of a property tax that will help cover such costs. The tax rate would remain the same.

 Test Result Data

Results also posted to the APS Maintenance and Operations website.