News Feature | February 13, 2017

Georgia School Faucet Fittings Cause Widespread Lead Contamination

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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Rigorous months of testing revealed high levels of lead in the drinking water of 28 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, and nine high schools in Georgia’s Fulton County school system.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the school district believed that the lead contained in the brass fittings of the faucets is to blame.

As of this writing, the results of tests in 10 schools had not been finalized. According to the U.S. EPA there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Though, “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the concentration of lead in school water fountains not exceed one part per billion.”

Out of the 84 schools that had been tested, 57 percent contained at least one site with a lead level of more than 15 ppb, which is the limit that the EPA allows in water systems.

At Brookview Elementary School, “a classroom sink produced a reading of 661 ppb, and a water fountain produced a reading of 526 ppb, the two highest lead levels in Fulton County schools. These levels are 44 times and 35 times larger, respectively, than the 15 ppb limit.”

The school district is working towards replacing the brass fittings. Joseph Clements, director of facility services for the school system, estimated that the cost for the replacements will cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

"We're trying to make sure we have a safe, healthy learning environment for our students, staff and visitors," Clements told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The percentage of lead that was allowed in the fittings changed in 2014, “so what was a safe standard when the fittings were installed is no longer considered a safe standard.”

Educators in Chicago had been recently struggling with new legislation that passed requiring both schools and daycare centers to test drinking water for lead contamination.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan passed the legislation after the Illinois Environmental Council located staggering levels of lead in many Chicago and suburban school districts.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that within the last year, “some Illinois schools have voluntarily tested drinking water for lead but state law does not require it, according to the attorney general.”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Lifegiving, November 2014" Neville Nel © 2014 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/