Memphis-Shelby County Schools invests over $5M in water filling stations

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:27 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis-Shelby County Schools have invested $5 million of COVID-19 relief funds to purchase and install 3,000 water bottle filling stations in all district-managed schools and administrative buildings.

This comes after lead testing in 2019 revealed 35 schools had one or more water sources with lead levels equal to or exceeding 20 parts per billion.

The district took immediate action back then, reporting its findings to state and local agencies as well as parents.

Of all the parents who requested testing for their students, no tests came back positive for lead.

“Our drinking water sources have been offline since we’ve been back in service and those water sources were offline primarily associated with CDC guidance,” said Genard Phillips, chief of business operations for Memphis-Shelby County Schools.

Phillips says after retesting over winter break in 2021, the number of schools impacted decreased to 12. In the meantime, the district provided bottled water for schools for drinking purposes until the filtrations systems are installed.

“We’ve been doing that since we actually went back to school back in March of last school year. So, we’ve been providing bottled water for all drinking purposes for students and staff throughout all school locations,” Philips said.

This initiative is made possible through ESSER COVID-19 relief funding.

Phillips says the pandemic has impacted the installation process, but schools are closer to fresh drinking water.

“Even though we’ve had a prescription that we’ve worked with our subject matter experts to engage in the implementation strategy, it took some time. We had some lead time and those items being delivered to us. And then of course, then we’ve got supply chain issues. We’re using our own staff as well as third-party contractors to help us with the installation process.”

School officials say they expect to have all the filtration systems installed by Jan. 31.

The district says the new filtration systems will minimize plastic waste, reduce costs, and provide better-tasting, filtered water.

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