MEMPHIS Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Shelby County Schools is now reporting two dozen of its schools tested positive for elevated levels of lead in water fountains and sinks, many above the average levels found during the Flint water crisis.
One cooler where kids can fill water bottles had more than 40 times the EPA limit, but school leaders want you to believe there’s nothing to worry about.
So far, district leaders say 39 water samples out of 2,300 have come back above the state’s threshold for safe water. However, Local 24 News talked with an expert who says any lead exposure more than zero is too much.
“We certainly encourage them to contact the health department for further guidance,” said SCS Risk Manager, Anthony Krone.
Shelby County Schools had that response to whether hundreds of students exposed to high levels of lead should be tested. This comes six days after the district submitted a report to the state health department indicating tests found concerning levels of lead in at least one water source from 24 of its schools.
“Many of these were not used frequently, so that may have contributed to the higher levels,” Krone explained.
Tennessee Law now requires testing every two years. Nearly 3,500 water fountains, ice machines, and sinks were tested.
Sheffield High School is one of two dozen schools that showed higher than normal levels of lead. The state health department says sample testing should not exceed twenty parts per billion. This school tested levels 5 times that amount.
“20 parts per billion that’s not a realistic number. As a city, we need to set what’s safe for our community which has to be zero,” said Chet Kibble, Chairman of Memphis and Shelby County Lead Safe Collaborative.
Kibble says that collaborative was created 10 years ago to find solutions to the problem.
“We’ve been classified as having the second largest number of lead exposed people. We need to do much better than that the real goal has to be zero tolerance,” Kibble said.
Just to give our viewers some perspective, a water fountain at Idlewild Elementary had a lead level of 632 and a pot filler at Douglass Elementary had a level of 356. The EPA suggests taking immediate steps if the level is above 15.
Children can be given a blood test at a doctors office or they can go to the health department for testing.