County public health applying for lead-testing grant for schools and daycares |

County public health applying for lead-testing grant for schools and daycares

Students and parents arrive at Sunset Elementary on the first day of school.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

A grant opportunity from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment could allow local public health officials to retest all of the water sources throughout Moffat County School District and all certified daycare facilities in the county for lead exposure.

The Water Quality Control Division of CDPHE has been awarded funding under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program is split into two phases. The first involves implementing outreach about lead exposure in drinking water and soliciting participation for testing from eligible schools and child care facilities. The second phase involves developing sampling plans for schools and child care facilities, sampling drinking water, submitting the samples for lead testing and communicating results to the public.

At a workshop with the Moffat County commissioners on Tuesday, Moffat County public health nurse Olivia Scheele said that CDPHE sent notices to all 64 of Colorado’s counties about the program, which gives out payments of $5,000 for each phase. Most of that money will go to pay for a technician to actually conduct the testing and the supplies that are going to be used for it.

“In addition to testing it, there’s obviously a possibility that something could come back over the acceptable level,” Scheele said. “That’s where mitigation would come in.”

The last time that MCSD tested its water for lead was October of 2017. During that process, about 10% of the 500 fixtures throughout the district were tested, and one fixture was removed because of its lead levels. That fixture was in a science lab, which Scheele said is pretty common to test positive for chemicals.

“If it’s one sink in a science room that has three sinks, you can do without and that’s great,” Scheele said. “But again, even if it is going to be 50% of the fixtures they have to replace, whereas it might be hurting, we’re saving lives and improving health.”

Depending on the fixture that is identified as having rates that are too high, Scheele said it can be relatively simple to fix problems with lead exposure. But if those fixes aren’t made, and it involves a fixture that provides drinking water, it could have serious adverse effects on child health.

“The main point is just understanding the negative health effects of lead on kids, which includes reduced IQs, attention and learning disabilities, hyperactivity, behavioral issues and impaired growth (and) memory loss,” she said.

Public health director Kari Ladrow added that it is often assumed that the negative effects of lead exposure is autism, so this grant would help public health and school officials identify other possible causes for these issues and remove them as soon as possible. She added that because of the rural status and lower-income communities of Moffat County, this region is disadvantaged when it comes to this kind of testing — especially when compared with bigger or wealthier communities.

“This is a pretty substantial financial gift to the county to be able to offer some testing like this,” Ladrow said.

If the public health department were to go ahead with the grant process, they would take the schematics of the water intake and begin testing at the freshwater intake, Scheele said. Ladrow added that the project aligns with other focuses Moffat County Public Health has already begun, including efforts with maternal/child health.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Ladrow said. “And the nice thing is most of your freshwater intake and most of your pipes are fairly updated.”

MCPH will apply for the grant through the county — which will assess or review the application for any potential issues before it is sent to the state.

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.