UPDATE: Testing found unsafe lead levels in water at 24 Shelby County Schools

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Leaders at Shelby County schools are reassuring parents after higher than normal levels of lead were found in two dozen district schools.

The results came from testing last month through a new state law, which requires every Tennessee school district get lead samples of water sources every two years.

The numbers jumped from 10 SCS schools Wednesday to 24 Thursday after additional results came in. And the number could grow higher when results from 30 other schools come back in the coming weeks.

From Booker T. Washington High School to Berclair Elementary, testing last month uncovered higher than normal levels of lead at two dozen schools.

The results came back last month, and families were told this week. 

“If the fountain is not used, there’s a greater risk of lead buildup in the water content,” Shelby County Schools Risk Manager Anthony Krone said.

SCS conducted the testing during fall break, taking samples at around 3500 faucets, drinking fountains and ice machines. The severity of lead found in the 39 water sources varied across the district, but each were above the EPA recommended threshold.

“In this particular case, is it cause for panic? Probably not,” Dr. Dale Criner said. 

Dr. Criner is the emergency department director at St. Francis Hospital in Bartlett.

“The likelihood that these children have markedly high levels of lead in their bloodstream is low, however, it is still something to pay attention to, it is something that needs to be checked out,” Dr. Criner said.

Getting checked out and tested for lead exposure is what Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. wants for every SCS student at those 24 impacted schools. He sent a letter to fellow commissioners Thursday and wants to talk about how the county could pay for that at their meeting next week.

“If the results come out negative, that’s fine, but we need to at least find out, instead of let it fester,” Ford, Jr. said.

SCS isn’t the only school district in west Tennessee to have abnormally high levels of lead in their buildings. Such samples were found in at least one school in the Tipton County, Dyer County, Millington, Germantown, and Hardeman County districts.

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