Report: High Levels Of Lead Dust Found In Phoenix's Garcia Elementary School

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 6:00pm
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 4:52pm
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Jackie Hai/KJZZ
The Alfred F. Garcia Elementary School is in the Murphy Elementary School District.

Murphy District has closed six classrooms in Phoenix’s Alfred Garcia Elementary School. That’s because a new environmental report shows high levels of lead dust in the air, according to the superintendent at a community meeting Monday evening.

Superintendent Dennis Goodwin of Murphy School District told a small crowd at Garcia Elementary about the findings of the recently shared report.

“The reason why we’re having this meeting is because we want you all to know that we’re doing all we can to test and get the school safe for the kids and move the kids to a safe location,” Goodwin said.

Testing showed lead paint in the older building, which turned to dust because of water damage, according to Goodwin. Six classrooms had significant amounts of lead paint dust over the federal limit in the air, also according to Goodwin.

Goodwin said those Garcia classrooms are now closed and the teachers moved.

The testing was done after an initial report found black mold in the buildings. The latest testing showed a safe amount of spores in the air.

Goodwin said they’re also looking into other repairs like damaged roofs and broken pipes in the schools.

Murphy School District is currently in receivership by the state after reports that the district was hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget. That means all changes and investigations can be made by the receiver appointed. That receiver issued a report assessing the multiple dysfunctions alleged by community members.

This latest environmental report follows a district-wide, state-mandated report that found multiple failures within the Murphy accounting system, travel-payment system and several students bitten by rats.

Murphy School District officials declined to comment on the findings.

The receiver's lawyer, Ryan Anderson, said the next step is to evaluate what can be done to keep Garcia Elementary students safe.

“The district needs to determine what we’re dealing with in terms of potential relocation of students on a more permanent basis, potential remediation costs associated with this events," Anderson, who had not read the report yet, said. "All those sort of things have to be evaluated by the governing board and the receiver as well.”


The environmental report, obtained through a public records request by KJZZ, shows more than half of the 50 plus rooms in Garcia Elementary School have fungal and/or water damage.

In addition, the testing company collected 22 spore trap air samples from inside Garcia and two tests outside. Ultimately, the lab analysis determined there were not elevated fungal spore counts found in the air.

The same lab did tests on paint samples from the walls and took lead wipe samples from surfaces in the rooms. About ¼ of the lead dust samples contained lead amounts over the lab limit of detection.

The lab limit of detection triggers at 10 ug/ft2 (micrograms per square foot) of lead concentration. 6 of the 22 samples triggered above that lab reading, all from different classrooms. The lowest amount was 22 ug/ft2. The highest amount of lead found in one dust sample from the classroom was 81 ug/ft2.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website on federal standards for lead, “lead is considered a hazard when equal to or exceeding 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on floors.” The sample measuring in at 81 ug/ft2 was a floor sample in one of Garcia Elementary’s classrooms. Two other samples measured above this hazard threshold, but neither were taken from the floor: one was on a bookcase, the other a sink counter.

In the report, the environmental testers note "the current U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) action levels for lead dust is 10 micrograms per square feet."

Those latest action levels from HUD note that the EPA was petitioned to lower the dust-lead standards to 10 micrograms per square feet for floors. As per HUD, "in supporting this request, the petitioners cited HUD-sponsored research that examined the relationship between dust-lead surface loadings and children’s blood-lead levels." The report continues, saying, "further supporting the desirability for lower hazard and clearance standards is research demonstrating that children suffer developmental deficits even at blood lead levels below 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood."

A version of the environmental report submitted to Murphy School District has been embedded below. KJZZ has redacted several instances of business information, like addresses and phone numbers, as well as personally identifying information of the individuals who performed some of the tests and sample-taking. KJZZ also redacted some pages that included difficult-to-read, hand-written notes that were recreated in more legible readings elsewhere in the report, and also had identifying information included in them.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with the environmental report details, which were obtained after the original story was published.

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