City News

Drinking fountains at six Madison schools test positive for lead

State Superintendent and Democratic nominee for governor Tony Evers took shots at Gov. Scott Walker in his tenth annual State of Education address, calling for significant increases in state aid and financial support to schools and students.

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All six schools tested by Madison’s school district contain lead levels higher than the national standard for contamination in their drinking water.

Water fountains at East High School, Sherman and Blackhawk Middle Schools and Gompers, Lowell and Lapham Elementary Schools, all on the city’s east side, contained lead amounts higher than 15 parts per billion, the Madison Metropolitan School District said Thursday.

Blackhawk and Gompers, which operate out of the same building, had seven drinking fountains with high levels of lead. Lapham had three, Lowell had two and both East and Sherman had one.

MMSD Director of Building Services Chad Wiese said the fountains that had high levels of lead are mostly ones that students do not use anyway.

“The drinking fountains we’re finding [with lead levels above the national standard] are the old porcelain ones without the electric water cooler,” Wiese said. “Students and staff aren’t using those because they don’t have cold water.”

According to Wiese, lead testing is not required, but the district wanted to take a “proactive and preventative” approach.

“I think Flint certainly caused some of the community and staff members to inquire about lead testing in our schools,” Wiese said.

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, whose district includes Blackhawk and Gompers, called the findings “terrifying.”

“We cannot keep putting off this issue in the Legislature and I am committed to finding meaningful solutions to address the lead crisis in Wisconsin,” Sargent said in a statement. “Any lead is too much lead.”

Consuming lead is dangerous, especially for children, and can cause brain damage and other serious health conditions. According to the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

MMSD plans to test for lead at every Madison public school, according to Wiese.

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