Water at some schools and child care facilities across Hawaii will be tested for lead as part of a joint project between the state Departments of Education, Health and Human Services.
According to a Friday news release from the state, the project, part of a nationwide program established under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2017, will begin in February and continue throughout the year.
Hawaii’s project will be paid for by a $222,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the news release said. The state will contribute an additional $696,000 from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
Nearly two dozen schools throughout Hawaii Island’s three complex areas will be tested, including: Haaheo Elementary, Hilo Union Elementary, Kalanianaole Elementary, Kapiolani Elementary, Kaumana Elementary, Keaukaha Elementary, Waiakea Elementary and Waiakeawaena Elementary in the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area; Holualoa Elementary, Honaunau Elementary, Honokaa Elementary, Hookena Elementary, Kahakai Elementary, Ke KuKe Kula O Ehunuikaimalino, Paauilo Elementary, Waimea Elementary, Kealakehe Elementary and Kohala Elementary in the Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area; and Ka‘u High and Pahala Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Naalehu Elementary and Pahoa Elementary in the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area.
According to the state, schools were selected based on the age of the buildings, the children who are served, and whether the schools have had their drinking water tested in the past, among other factors.
“Hawaii has been fortunate in that we have not experienced the same types of challenges with lead contamination as we have seen in the continental United States, so it’s important to note this project is a precautionary measure,” state toxicologist Dr. Diana Felton said in the news release. “Historically, public water systems in Hawaii have not had lead contamination.
“However, it is possible for lead to contaminate drinking water through fixtures and piping within a school or child care facility, particularly in older buildings, so we want to make sure keiki are safe.”
According to the state, lead exposure can harm the brain and nervous system, and long-term exposure in childhood can lead to problems with learning, school performance, attention and behavior, as well as anemia and other health problems.
Felton said the investigations will determine if any immediate action is necessary.
Water samples will be tested by the DOH State Laboratories Division.
Results of the testing will be posted in each school’s administrative office and on the WIIN project website at health.hawaii.gov/wiin.