Water to be tested at facilities for kids
The state will for the first time check tap water for lead at all 1,200 licensed child-care and preschool facilities in Hawaii to make sure the water is safe to drink.
State officials, who do not expect to find dangerous lead levels, chose to conduct the tests because they had money available through the Environmental Protection Agency's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to pay for the estimated $569,000 cost of the program, said Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo.
"This is one of the things we can use the money for. We just thought we'd try it out and see what kind of results we get," she said.
In 2004, the last time the state tested a sample of low-income children for lead, less than 1 percent of them had above-average exposure levels, Okubo said.
While the Board of Water Supply regularly tests its water for lead, corrosion of older fixtures and the solder that connects pipes could release the chemical into the water. The child-care centers were picked for the test because children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning.
Through competitive bidding, the state selected Honolulu-based AMEC Earth & Environmental Inc. to do the testing, which is expected to take two years. If unsafe levels of lead are found at a certain facility, its owner will be required to immediately improve tap water treatment by installing filters, replacing plumbing or switching to bottled water, the state said.
Officials are still deciding which facilities will be tested first.