High levels of lead have been detected in some of Gibraltar School’s water supply.
“We are taking a very proactive approach,” said Gibraltar Superintendent Tina Van Meer. “Health and safety are above everything else.”
A letter Van Meer sent to Gibraltar families reported that tests carried out by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) showed that water in the girls’ locker room, elementary-office bathroom and high school chemistry room all had lead levels higher than the accepted level of 15 ug/l. Those levels were 16, 20 and 47 ug/l, respectively.
Water is tested every three years. In 2016, tests showed that lead levels were well below the accepted level, Van Meer said. In 2013, only one area was above the level, but it did not exceed 10 percent of the total areas tested, so it remained in compliance.
Lead can cause serious health problems, especially in pregnant women and small children. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and can interfere with red blood cells that carry oxygen in the body.
To minimize exposure to lead in drinking water, the school has turned off all water fountains in the building, placed Culligan water stations throughout the district and will hold follow-up consultations with the DNR. The school had gone through 20 containers of water during the two days prior to this writing. The kitchen staff will also follow all guidelines for safe water practices.
In addition to working with the DNR, the district is in the process of contacting local companies that drill wells. Given the amount of rain this season, the school is inquiring whether those companies, which must test for lead, have seen elevated levels.
The district is also bringing in an outside company to retest the water, Van Meer said. In the past, the school’s maintenance crew has carried out the testing in cooperation with the DNR.
The district is unable to confirm whether the lead is related to the construction going on at the school, Van Meer said.
“The school district will continue to test water levels every six months until lead levels reach an acceptable level for two consecutive testing periods,” Van Meer wrote in her letter.