Blount County Schools found elevated levels of lead in water at five of 16 buildings tested last month, and three schools remain to be tested.
A state law that took effect in 2019 requires school districts to test all sources of drinking water in schools built before 1998 and take action if levels exceed 20 parts per billion.
In June BCS found:
• 33.2 ppb at a Porter Elementary sink
• 31.2 ppb at a Rockford Elementary sink
• 23.2 ppb at a Friendsville Elementary gym water fountain in a basement classroom
• 20.6 ppb at a sink at the Samuel Everett School of Innovation
• 17 ppb at one sink and 16.2 ppb in another at Union Grove Elementary.
BCS already has taken some corrective action, such as replacing parts and removing the water fountain at Friendsville, according to Troy Logan, who in addition to being the district’s fiscal administrator oversees facilities maintenance. The water is shut off to the sink at Porter until it is replaced.
In its first round of testing last year, BCS found high lead levels in one location each at three of the five schools: Lanier, Rockford and Middlesettlements Elementary. The highest level was 228 ppb at a Middlesettlements kitchen sink.
BCS has not yet tested Heritage and William Blount high schools, built in the 1970s, because of construction there, Logan said. However, BCS plans to test both them and Prospect Elementary, its newest school, which opened in 2011.
Last year Alcoa City Schools found 16 water sources over the limit in the schools it tested, mostly at the middle school. It chose not to test the intermediate and high school, which are new enough to be exempt from the state law.
Maryville City Schools said last year it tested all of its schools and no remediation was required.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website states, “Because no safe blood level has been identified for young children, all sources of lead exposure for children should be controlled or eliminated. EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s website explains that young children are particularly vulnerable to physical and behavioral effects from lead.
“In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells,” EPA states.
Homes built before 1988 also may be at elevated danger for high lead levels in water because it was used in pipes, solder and fixtures.