Metro Schools conducts tests on lead levels in water - WSMV Channel 4

Metro Schools conducts tests on lead levels in water

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

School's back in session and Metro Schools is looking to address concerns of lead levels in the water.

Metro Schools did a volunteer study over the summer, evaluating 138 buildings and their water sources. There's been concern about the lead levels, especially in buildings with old pipes.

Some claim more focus should be placed on reducing lead levels, while school officials said they're confident in their efforts.

"We feel pretty good about saying that our water is safe," said Metro Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph. "We're the only school district in the state that does test our water."

Out of more than 138 buildings, Metro said 19 of them had at least one sample with lead levels above the EPA standards for public drinking water. Metro also said they took 4,000 samples, and 38 of those samples showed lead levels above the EPA standards.

"For those areas that have higher levels of concentration, we made sure students do not have access to them," Joseph said. "If there was a water fountain that had an issue, it would not be on. We're continuously monitoring it. We want to make sure that our water's safe."

Any level of lead in water has been a concern, with the Facebook group emerging, "Nashville Parents Against Lead in Schools."

"The goal is not necessarily to achieve zero levels of lead because that may not be feasible," said Dr. Sanmi Areola, deputy director for the Metro Public Health Department. "If it is feasible, we want to do that. As much as we can, we want to reduce the lead levels."

Areola said the volunteer testing was a good effort. He said he's been meeting with Metro Schools officials to look at results and address problems. Areola said water coming through pipes in older buildings is often of higher concern, and a faucet that's not used as often could also contain higher levels of lead.

"Sometimes it's disconnecting, sometimes it's replacing, sometimes it's through a flushing program," he said, referring to solutions.

That flushing process is something that was sponsored in a bill this year by Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville.

"Lead is in the drinking water in schools," he said. "We found that and confirmed that."

His bill would've required schools that had been out for a while to run water for at least 60 seconds to reduce the risk of lead. The bill didn't pass, but Powell hopes the recent study will get legislators to re-evaluate his bill.

"Even trace amounts of lead can be dangerous," Powell said. "Why not reduce that risk and take actionable measures by flushing and running the water to reduce that risk? I have young children, so I care about this issue a lot. I hope we take a hard look next year on statewide testing on all levels to make sure no schools and no children are being exposed to lead."

Reps for Metro Schools said there are four schools yet to tested and another two are only partially tested because of construction. Click here for a full list of schools and their results.

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