Lead Found in Sahuaro Water


Sidney Moyers

In March, TUSD volunteered their drinking water to be tested by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Unfortunately, after the results came in, many schools including Catalina High, Maxwell K-8, Myers Ganoung, Palo Verde Magnet High, Rincon High/University High and our beloved Sahuaro, found that there were high levels of lead in the water. Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures.

While lead is a metal that occurs naturally in the world, it is extremely toxic to humans. If someone comes into contact with a large amount or is exposed to lead for a large amount of time it can cause devastating damage to your liver, kidneys, reproductive system, and nervous system.

In order to help with the issue, TUSD has said that they will be flushing the system every day and a sign will be posted on the wall instructing students and staff to not drink or use the water for cooking. At the other schools stated above, they will be turning off and resetting the systems. At Rincon/University High, they will also be going through another set of tests before the sink will be used again.

Principal, Mr. Estrella stated, “We take the safety of students, staff and faculty very seriously. As a proactive measure the District recently tested the water on our campus for lead. In the entire campus, there was one fixture that tested too high for lead . . . it’s an old fixture. The fixture is in the admin building and is not used for drinking or cooking. Still, we sent out the letter informing everyone of the issue. We posted a sign on the fixture stating Do Not Drink. We run the fixture in the morning for two minutes and we have bottled water in that area. The District is in the process of replacing the fixture and re-testing to make sure the issue is resolved.”

Dr. Francisco García, Assistant Pima County Administrator for Health Services and Chief Medical Officer commented “There is no immediate threat to the health and safety of the students nor the teachers and staff at these schools. The Health Department appreciates the forward thinking of our state and school partners to identify and address any potential risks. The well-being of this community is a top priority, and Pima County is committed to work with parents and schools during this process.” EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.

Take Measures to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water at Home

Flush your pipes before drinking: The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.

Only use cold water for eating and drinking: Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead. Run cold water until it becomes as cold as it can get.

Note that boiling water will NOT get rid of lead contamination.

Use water filters or treatment devices:  Many water filters and water treatment devices are certified by independent organizations for effective lead reduction. Devices that are not designed to remove lead will not work.

(Sources: epa.gov, World Health Organization, tucsonnewsnow.com)