DeKalb district officials still tackling lead in water at schools

A year after the DeKalb County School District began testing lead in water at all its buildings, district officials say they're still addressing several water sources producing lead above federally mandated levels.

Atlanta Environmental Management found elevated lead levels in water nearly half the school district’s 145 schools, administrative buildings and athletic facilities in initial testing, which ended this summer.

“We’re still retesting water sources at several schools,” said Chief Operations Officer Joshua Williams.

Williams said efforts to reduce the lead were continuing on water faucets and sinks in buildings where tests showed levels above 15 parts per billion, the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level. Signs should be posted on or next to water sources in buildings across the district that tested above that level, he said.

Williams said elevated lead was detected in 142 water sources of 4,582 tested. More than 130 of those have been retested.

At some schools, lead more than 150 times the EPA’s action level was discovered.

The district’s website for lead testing results shows more than 40 buildings still listed as not meeting standards during testing. Recent test results have not been reflected, Williams said.

Superintendent Steve Green announced an emergency declaration in September 2016 to test lead in water, citing contamination of water in Flint, Mich., as his motivation. He approved approximately $450,000 for Atlanta Environmental Management to test the district's water.

“We haven’t had anything arise that would make us think we have a problem,” Green said after announcing testing. “The health and safety of all students and staff are, and always will be, our top priority.”

Testing began at the district’s oldest elementary school buildings, as lead would most likely be found in structures completed before 1986, and elementary school children are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning.

School water fountains should not exceed lead concentrations of 1 part per billion, according to the American Society of Pediatrics, which says even low lead levels could affect behavior and learning.

No Georgia law requires testing water for lead in schools and day care centers. A bill introduced this year — and still active, because of a two-year legislative session — could require testing of water at all schools and child-care facilities.

Atlanta Public Schools was the first Georgia district to test its water sources, beginning testing in the spring of 2016. Officials found 25 of 60 schools had water sources with lead levels above 15 parts per billion.

You can find information about your DeKalb County schools, such as test scores, graduation rates and school climate rating at the Ultimate Atlanta School Guide.

What was tested?

DeKalb Schools officials said water samples were collected from every water source in:

Water meter supply buildings


Water Fountains

Bathroom sinks

Ice machines

Teacher’s lounges

Athletic fields

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