ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Staff Photo / Tyler Middle School is seen on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tyner was among six Hamilton County schools that water tests showed to have lead concentration levels higher than the state's action level of 20 parts per billion.

Of the 760 water samples recently collected at 24 Hamilton County schools over spring break, six showed lead concentration levels higher than the state's action levels of 20 parts per billion.

Another three tested at or above the district's stricter, self-imposed actionable standard of 15 ppb, but less than 20 ppb.

All nine water sites were immediately removed from service and will stay that way until corrective action is taken, according to a news release. Families of students at the 24 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."

The highest reading was taken from a kitchen pot filler at Ooltewah Middle School with lead levels of 151 ppb, according to the district's testing results. A water cooler at East Ridge High had the second-highest reading at 53.5 ppb.

The remaining seven sites at or above 15 ppb are as follows: a Tyner Middle School classroom faucet, 37.8 ppb; a Lookout Valley Middle/High School water cooler, 30.7 ppb; the nurses' sink in Central High School, 33 ppb; a Howard High School kitchen faucet, 21.9 ppb; a water cooler in Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, 17.3 ppb; a Wolftever Creek Elementary classroom faucet, 15 ppb; and a classroom faucet at Big Ridge Elementary, 15 ppb.

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

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

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended action level is 15 ppb. The State of Tennessee school lead testing requires water sources over 20 ppb to be removed from service.

By law, Tennessee school districts are required to periodically test water sources in buildings constructed prior to 1998 as the risk for lead contamination is higher in older structures.

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.

About half the district's pre-1998 schools have been tested. The remaining will be sampled during the summer.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT