SCS confirms 24 schools with high levels of lead in water

Updated: Nov. 7, 2019 at 5:03 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a press conference Thursday, Shelby County Schools confirmed high levels of lead were found in the water a 24 schools.

"Out of the 2,300 samples that we have thus far, only 39 of those came back above the EPA action level,” said Anthony Krone, SCS Risk Manager.

The following schools had water samples that tested positive for lead levels above the EPA threshold:

  • Booker T. Washington High
  • Berclair Elementary
  • Central High
  • Charjean Elementary
  • Chickasaw Middle
  • Double Tree Elementary
  • Douglass Pre-K
  • Douglass Elementary/Middle
  • Egypt Elementary
  • Gardenview Elementary
  • Havenview Middle
  • Idlewild Elementary
  • Keystone Elementary
  • Kingsbury Elementary
  • Kingsbury Vocational
  • Raleigh Egypt High
  • Ridgeway Middle
  • Sheffield High
  • South Park Elementary
  • Treadwell Middle
  • Westside Elementary
  • Whitehaven Elementary STEM School
  • Whitehaven High
  • Wooddale High

Schools were tested during the most recent fall break, Oct. 14 - 18.

Approximately 3,500 total samples were taken from faucets, drinking fountains and ice machines.

Anthony Krone, Risk Manager for Shelby County Schools, says many of the fountains where lead was found were not used often.

"We attribute that to the lack of use of the fountain. We have found from our experience that if the fountain is not used there’s a greater risk of lead build up in the water content,” said Krone.

SCS last conducted lead testing in 2017 when it was not required.

Now the district says it'll test schools every two years based on a new state requirement.

All of the impacted sources have been shut off or removed and SCS officials say they do not have an affect on any other fountains or water sources in the building.

"Lead poisoning many times is not even noticed because frequently they're asymptomatic - they don't have any symptoms,” said Dr. Dale Criner, St. Francis-Bartlett Hospital.

Dr. Dale Criner with the emergency department at St. Francis-Bartlett says if a child does have symptoms it can range from nausea, abdominal pain, irritability, difficulty sleeping and paying attention.

However, he said lead found in Shelby County schools should not cause a panic in parents.

"If you simply are concerned that your child may have been exposed, that can safely be handled at the child’s primary care office,” said Criner.

The SCS risk management team will assess each water source to determine if further action should be taken. The team will then test each water source within 90 days of the corrective actions.

Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. was shocked to learn Wednesday that in the first round of testing, 6 of the 10 schools with unacceptable levels of lead in water sources were in his Southwest Memphis district.

“When you look at 10 particular isolated incidents, 60 percent of them are in your backyard that's a problem,” said Ford.

He sent a letter to commissioners asking for their support in asking the health department to test children for lead at the initial 10 schools at no cost to the parents.“And even if they come out negative like at least give the parents a positive sense of mind giving that we’re doing the right thing,” said Ford.

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