Lead continues to be found in Eastern Howard school water

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) — There will be voluntary blood tests for students in eastern Howard County after lead continues to show up in water samples from the high school.

Because of those lead levels, students at Eastern Howard High School will also continue to drink bottled water at school.

Additional tests are being run.

After voluntary tests a couple weeks ago found high levels of lead, 43 additional samples were taken in Eastern Howard School Corporation.

Conner Buck is a junior at Eastern Howard High School and isn’t bothered by the lead issue.

“We’ve just been going to the office to get free water instead of going to the fountains,” he said.

And that will continue — for now.

On Tuesday, county and school officials shared results that there are still higher than normal levels of lead in at least one water source at the Performing Arts Center.

But Howard County Health Officer Dr. Don Zent said the levels weren’t in water that students drink.

“That’s not drinkable water, but if you notice there’s a water fountain that was tested in that building and that was normal,” he said.

A cause for the lead levels is still unknown.

The county is recommending more tests and some action steps for the school corporation.

“Filters, replacement components, replace old plumbing, etc.,” Zent said. “Use only cold water, because hot water will increase the lead level because of the heat.”

And the county is also offering free blood screening for all students Friday at their schools.

“Potentially we will see some positive results come from this testing,” Public Health Nursing Manager Jennifer Sexton said.

Sexton said it’s not uncommon to find levels of lead in children’s systems, but the cause might not be related to water at school.

“We anticipate that we will probably find other lead risks in the child’s environment,” she said.

For now, students will continue to drink bottled water at school until all levels of lead are deemed safe.

“We’re not going to allow students to drink the water until we’re absolutely sure that it’s safe and if it takes weeks, it takes months, we’re going to do whatever it takes,” Superintendent Tracy Caddell said.