NORFOLK, Va. — In early November, Virginia Beach City Public Schools released a report detailing dozens of failed lead level tests after an assessment of school drinking water sources.
Virginia Beach administrators said they fixed the 51 water sources in 27 schools that showed lead levels greater than 15 parts per billion, the "actionable level" set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
VBCPS leaders promised additional testing of other school water sources and a summer "flushing program" to maintain clean water lines.
Lead-water testing is required by a broad 2017 Virginia law that instructs public school divisions to prioritize testing of buildings constructed before 1986 and then re-mediate lead issues where appropriate.
After the VBCPS report, 13 News Now then asked other local school districts for their water testing results.
Portsmouth Public Schools water testing, completed in the summer and fall of 2018, found 30 water sources with unacceptable lead levels - some as high as 30 times greater than the 15 ppb EPA limit.
Most of these sources were fixed by a simple flush of the water in the system, removing a build-up of lead contamination caused by the infrequent use of sinks and fountains.
In both Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, an overwhelming majority of water sources showed no lead contamination.
Virginia Beach Department of Public Health Director Demetria Lindsay said the lead amounts reported represent a "very low risk" to public health but recommended that parents talk to a doctor if they're concerned about their child's health.
Norfolk Public Schools and Suffolk Public Schools were next to provide 13News Now with reports of lead testing. Both school divisions reported finding two water sources with lead levels greater than 15 ppb.
One water fountain at Little Creek Primary School in Norfolk tested for a lead level of 597 ppb, almost 40 times greater than the EPA actionable level. NPS said it disconnected that fountain from the school's waterline.
NPS workers tested a total of 72 water sources across a variety of elementary and auxiliary schools in 2017. No middle schools or high schools were tested.
An NPS spokeswoman said the school division will retest all schools - including middle and high schools - by May 2020.
Suffolk Public Schools reports fixing one sink and one fountain to address lead levels greater than 15 ppb. SPS said it will test all water sources again in the summer of 2020.
However, Dan Horne, Engineering Field Director at the Virginia Department of Health - Office of Drinking Water, said he doesn't recommend summer testing.
"Unfortunately for most school districts it's the easiest for them to sample during the summer, but that's when we see uncharacteristically high results."
Horne said extended periods of little to no use of water sources like fountains could lead to unusually high levels of lead buildup.
Horne praised each school district for acting to make sure each water source tests below 15 ppb, saying that proactive decision is not required by law and not standard practice for water sources outside of school systems.
"The school districts have decided, regardless of the value, if it's above 15 ppb they want to take some action, and I think the should be commended for that," he said.
Horne echoed the thoughts of Lindsay, saying the amounts of lead currently being reported through school water testing results do not represent a major health risk.
"The amount of lead in the water is not directly related to the amount of lead in the blood, there's no direct link."
13News Now is awaiting water testing results from Hampton City Schools, Chesapeake Public Schools and Newport News Public Schools. This story will be updated with additional information.