Elevated Levels of Lead Found in Gregori High School Water

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MODESTO -- Water bottles were abundant throughout the Gregori High School campus on Thursday after four water locations at the school came up with levels for lead above state regulations during a test last month.

The district says new tests were done Thursday, but they will be taking precautions until those results come out next week.

"From that point, we took immediate action. We covered drinking fountains, we put up some signage. We also turned off all the water to all the drinking fountains. We provided water to our nutrition services staff so they could wash dishes and prepare food," Modesto City Schools spokeswoman Becky Fortuna said. "We also communicated with our families. We sent a voicemail to our families late Tuesday, we sent a letter Wednesday and a Facebook post as well."

Water was tested again at the 10 locations surveyed in the last testing. Though the last test showed lead results above the limit, the Stanislaus County Health Services says that doesn't necessarily mean danger for Gregori students and staff.

"Lead exposure in children causes a variety of learning and behavioral problems over time. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk. In this situation, we know that three years ago, their testing was fine, so we know there hasn’t been long-term exposure," Public Health nurse manager Julie Falkenstein said.

The district says because Gregori runs on its own water well system, they are required to test every three years. The water is still used for hand washing and for ice in the athletic locker rooms since lead isn't absorbed into the skin, but out on the football field, bottled water waited for the Jaguars' practice and will be there for football games Friday night.

"Just want to reiterate to our families and our staff that their safety is our top priority and we appreciate their patience during this time," Fortuna said.

Students at Gregori seemed to take the abrupt change in stride and plenty of water is in storage to hold over until test results are released. The district and county say they are confident they are reacting positively to negative test results.

"Just because a water source is over the EPA levels, doesn’t mean a child is going to have elevated blood lead levels," Falkenstein said. "The school is taking an abundance of caution to make sure their children aren’t harmed by elevated blood lead levels."

The latest test results could be available as early as Monday.

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