‘Brown water’ at a Tacoma school outrages parents, students

TACOMA, Wash. — Parents are outraged in Tacoma over ‘brown water’ flowing from faucets and fountains at Birney Elementary School.

We’re told the discolored water has been a problem since mid-February.

“Our children now bring their own water bottles and teachers have had to dip into their own pockets to provide water for students,” said parent Kaelin Kerr.

Kerr spoke at a school board meeting on March 28th sharing her concerns about the water at her kid’s school.

“The children can’t wash their hands after using the restroom and have to rely on hand sanitizer to clean their hands,” Kerr added.

The school says it’s coming from the taps inside the round building on the north side of the campus.

Parents tell KIRO 7 the building is decades old and wasn’t a part of the school’s recent upgrade.

“We went to wash our hands and it came out brown,” said parent Andrya Holt.

Holt is an avid member of the PTA and a mother to a first grader at the school. After cleaning out a popcorn machine on March 21st.

She said brown, rusted and murky water came out of the faucet.

Holt was immediately concerned for the kids.

“So, if there’s something in that water that they shouldn’t be drinking, what’s going to happen when one of those students is sick or ends up possibly dying. What are we going to do now?” asked Holt.

She and another parent, Emily Hasenleder, noticed the discoloration at the same time.

They tell KIRO 7 the faucets have been wrapped up ever since, so kids can’t use them.

“I’m sure those little kids want water throughout the day, and to not have that readily available, that’s definitely concerning,” said Hasenleder.

Holt and Hasenleder also noticed cases of water bottles in the classrooms.

They found out the cases were brought in by the school and another parent.

But they say were never made aware of the problem in the first place. Parents didn’t receive an email regarding the matter until Thursday afternoon.

Tacoma Public Schools responded to KIRO 7 in a statement:

“We are aware of the concerns regarding the discolored water at Birney’s round building and want to assure everyone that we are taking this matter seriously. We’ve sent water samples to a lab for testing and we’re working closely with Tacoma Public Utilities and experts to ensure the safety of our students and staff. TPU has been conducting water flushing in the area and has expressed that Tacoma’s water meets all federal and state drinking water regulations and is safe to drink. All students, and staff have access to filtered water in the main building We are committed to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for everyone at Birney.”

Holt is concerned, saying the main building isn’t accessible without a staff member with a key.

“You want first graders and anybody who’s accessing the library to be accompanied by a staff member who has a key. So how is that supposed to work all day long when you have class that you’re supposed to teach?” Holt said.

In an email from the school to parents, water samples were taken April 1st. The district expects results in 4 to 5 weeks.