Elevated lead levels found in more Atlanta schools’ water

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Elevated lead levels found in more Atlanta schools’ water

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JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

More than 40 percent of the Atlanta schools at which initial water tests are complete have elevated lead levels in at least one water fountain or sink, according to updated results released Wednesday evening.

Twenty-five of the 60 schools for which results are available had one or more water sources with elevated lead levels, according to a written statement from Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. In total, 45 of the 1,667 school water sources had elevated levels.

It’s unclear how high lead levels were in some of those schools. Previous test results obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act showed levels at some schools as high as 15 times the federal limit for water systems. Carstarphen did not include results for individual schools in her statement.

In total, the district has tested 113 buildings. Carstarphen said she would make the results for all buildings available “upon completion of the testing process.”

There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school water fountains not exceed lead concentrations of 1 part per billion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health experts say even low levels of lead in children’s blood can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, slowed growth and other problems.

The schools Carstarphen identified as having elevated lead levels had concentrations above 15 parts per billion. That’s the level above which water systems, such as Atlanta Watershed, are generally required to try to reduce lead in drinking water.

Seven of the school fountains or sinks with elevated lead levels showed lower levels after workers flushed water lines or replaced fixtures.

No federal or Georgia law requires water in schools or daycare centers to be tested for lead. Atlanta is the only metro-area school district to test school drinking water system-wide.

Atlanta’s testing was prompted by the national focus on lead in drinking water after dangerous lead levels were found in the water supply of Flint, Mich., district operations chief Larry Hoskins told the AJC last month. Dozens of school districts nationally have started testing, and lead has been found in cities including Chicago, Newark, Portland, and Washington, D.C.

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