Shelby County Mayor responsible for tough law on lead in schools

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – You know what’s interesting about this lead being found in some Shelby County Schools? The man in Nashville who wrote the legislation with a few others just happens to be Mayor of Shelby County.

Mayor Lee Harris says the Shelby County School system is following the law – a law he helped write while he was in the Tennessee State Senate.

“What we found was that there was a major vulnerability at schools, particularly those built before 1998,” he says. “After 1998, schools were required to only use construction materials that were lead-free.”

The Tennessee General Assembly was interested in getting the lead out after the troubles in Flint, Michigan, where there were extremely high levels of lead found in the water system.

It resulted in two laws in Tennessee. One concerned the schools – the other one concerned homes.

“I live in Midtown,” Harris says. “I live in a home that’s about 100-years-old. You get a notice. I get a notice from MLGW about the age of my home and that there is the possibility of lead contamination.”

The Harris law says if lead is found, take the source of the lead out of reach.

“If there is a contamination that exceeds EPA standards of 20 parts per billion,” the Mayor says, “… then the schools are required to take that water out of circulation and give notice to the state, to local authorities, and to the parents.”

Mayor Harris says he is not a scientist or an engineer, but he thinks the source of the lead is the plumbing used at the old schools. He doesn’t think it comes from Memphis Light, Gas and Water.

His bill does not require students at those schools to be tested for lead.

Mayor Harris says if he were the parent of any child in the schools that drank the water, he’d get them tested for lead.

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