Water samples taken from Dupont Elementary in Chattanooga test extremely high for lead

Staff File Photo / Dupont Elementary School

Two water samples taken from Dupont Elementary have tested extremely high for lead, according to Hamilton County Schools data.

One sample from a classroom faucet showed lead concentration levels of 286 parts per billion - more than 10 times higher than the level at which the state requires a response, which is 20 parts per billion.

The samples were part of routine water testing required by the state of Tennessee. Hamilton County Schools collected 806 samples. Of those, 12 showed lead concentration levels higher than 20 ppb.

All 12 water sites were immediately removed from service and will remain so until corrective action is taken, according to a news release. The 12 outlets are located at 11 facilities. Families of students at the 11 schools were notified via email about the results.

"Hamilton County Schools is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff," Chief Operations Officer Robert Sharpe said in a news release. "As a part of that commitment, we have held ourselves to stricter water testing standards than those required by the state, and we have worked to be transparent about our test results to school families and our community."

Typically, lead enters drinking water due to the decay of plumbing materials and poses serious health concerns in children, especially those under the age of 6. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no safe blood lead levels in children or levels of lead in water.

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, slowed development and behavior problems.

"There are no concerns with the overall quality or safety of drinking water at any of the tested facilities," the news release said.

In 2020, Hamilton County Schools collected samples from over 2,000 different water sites at 53 schools built before 1998. In 2021, the district collected over 1,000 samples at schools built in 1998 or later.

Earlier this year, the district tested half the district's pre-1998 schools. The recent round of tests completes all pre-1998 schools.

Contact Carmen Nesbitt at cnesbitt@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @carmen_nesbitt.