Summit School District to replace certain drinking water infrastructure after tests show potential for lead leaks in elementary schools |

Summit School District to replace certain drinking water infrastructure after tests show potential for lead leaks in elementary schools

The testing, mandated by state law, identified the most lead risks at Frisco Elementary School. District officials say those drinking water sources have been turned off.

Frisco Elementary School is pictured Nov. 12, 2021. Testing in March 2023 found the potential for elevated levels of lead in drinking water coming from sinks, fountains and other water sources in various Summit County elementary schools.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Recent tests at Summit School District elementary schools found the potential for elevated levels of lead in drinking water coming from sinks, fountains and other water sources. 

In compliance with House Bill 22-1358, a 2022 Colorado law that mandates lead testing in the state’s public schools and child care centers, the district collected samples in early- to mid-March that were tested by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

Out of 238 samples collected, the department found 51 instances of elevated lead levels in drinking water that could stem from old infrastructure — with Frisco Elementary School seeing the most potential for lead risk. Test sites included classroom and kitchen faucets, drinking water fountains and water bottle fill stations.

“The results are what they are. We need to fix the pipes and fixtures,” said Superintendent Tony Byrd, who called the 2022 law “a good thing that the governor has mandated because, frankly, there’s a lot of old pipes and fixtures all over the state.”

The district has received results for Frisco, Breckenridge, Dillon and Upper Blue elementary schools, with results for Summit Cove likely coming within days, said district Facilities Manager Woody Bates. The state legislation does not mandate testing for middle and high schools, according to Bates, nor does it provide funding to replace aging infrastructure of those schools.

Bates said the tests do not guarantee that there are excessive lead levels in the water but do indicate that the drinking water infrastructure of those schools could be leaking lead. It also does not mean that the district had lead pipes. 

“This isn’t a water quality test. We know that the water coming into the schools is good,” Bates said. “Even though you may not have a lead pipe, there’s still a very small percentage of lead that is permitted in the construction of drinking faucets and fixtures. And so over time those … that lead can leak into that water.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead levels in water that are over 15 parts per billion need action. The state law takes a more conservative approach, setting the acceptable level at no more than 5 parts per billion. 

Resources for lead testing

The results of Colorado’s lead tests for public schools and child care centers are available at

Free lead testing kits are available from the state at for occupants of homes older than 1979.

Lead screenings can also be scheduled through the Summit County Public Health Department at

While some results showed district tests as high as 220 parts per billion, Bates said this is likely not an accurate figure. That’s because the samples used for testing were collected from water that had sat still for a minimum of 36 hours, which is sure to increase the potential for lead detection, according to Bates. Lead exposure from pipes, faucets and fixtures is also based on a slew of factors from the water pH levels, temperature and age of the infrastructure. 

Unlike Upper Blue, Summit Cove and Silverthorne elementary schools — which were constructed between 1996 and 2004 — Breckenridge, Frisco and Dillon schools are older, having been built between 1971 and 1979, according to Bates.

Still, district officials said they are taking any tests exceeding 5 parts per billion seriously and have shut off drinking access to those sites. Officials also said they plan to replace any and all infrastructure that has tested above an acceptable level using funding from the state that provides up to $1,500 per faucet, fixture or pipe.

Jill Brenner, the district’s lead nurse, said parents may have serious concerns about what the findings mean for their students’ health.

“It’s pretty clear we know lead is a toxin” that is especially dangerous to babies and young children, Benner said. “Having said that, to detect the source of where lead exposure is coming from is incredibly difficult, almost impossible.”

Homes constructed before 1979 are at much higher risk of containing lead paint, Brenner said, while buildings constructed before 1986 may contain lead pipes. Lead can also be found in children’s toys and even makeup, making it crucial that parents stay vigilant about products their children are interacting with, Brenner said. 

“Lead can exist in so many different sources,” Brenner said. 

Byrd said he wanted to assure parents that the testing represents a more precautionary measure, adding, “our No. 1 priority is student safety.” He also understands the issue may evoke thoughts of more drastic scenarios, such as the infamous water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the city’s drinking water was contaminated with lead.

“But it’s really important to realize that there’s a difference,” Byrd said. “We’re taking it super seriously and making sure that we don’t contribute to that problem.”

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