Tennessee law requires local boards of education to periodically test for lead in drinking water sources, and Hamilton County Schools has regularly tested for lead in the drinking water in its schools for the past two years.
If a water sample tests at or above 20 parts per billion, the state stipulates, the school must remove the source from service until corrected.
Hamilton County Schools removes drinking water sources that test at or above 15 ppb.
Additionally, HCS samples every school, even though state law requires only buildings built before 1998 to be tested.
HCS began testing the water outlets at its schools in 2020. During the summer, the school system collected samples from over 2,000 outlets at 53 schools.
HCS collected over 1,000 additional samples the following summer as part of a voluntary effort to test the water in schools built in 1998 or later.
In 2022, HCS retested every school built prior to 1998.
Out of 806 samples collected at the 27 schools, 12 (1.4%) samples included lead at a concentration at or greater than the state’s limit of 20 ppb. HCS removed each of these water outlets from use and will begin remediation work as soon as possible.
The 12 outlets are located at 11 facilities. HCS officials say they have no concerns with the overall quality or safety of the drinking water at any of the tested facilities.
Lead typically enters drinking water due to the wearing away of piping, faucets, fixtures and other plumbing materials. Because lead is tasteless, odorless and colorless in drinking water, testing is a way to learn if lead is present.
Each faucet or water fountain that is used for drinking or food prep must be tested because results can vary between outlets and various water chemistry changes can alter levels over time.
HCS works with a contractor to identify and remediate sources of lead. When a test result indicates elevated lead content, the school system conducts additional testing to determine the source of the lead.
HCS reopens water sources only after corrective action and retesting are complete.
HSC adheres to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards and the requirements of the state legislation as it collects samples.
For example, water must be standing in plumbing overnight before samples are collected.
A draw of water that’s been standing in plumbing overnight is collected in laboratory supplied sample bottles and assigned a unique number. Each source is tagged with a sticker displaying the number.
The sample is then supplied to a qualified laboratory for conducting chemical analyses.
HCS 2022 water testing summary
One source exceeding limit:
Barger Elementary, Brainerd High, CSAS, Dalewood Middle, Hamilton County High, Normal Park Lower, Normal Park Upper, North Hamilton County, Red Bank High School, Sequoyah High
Two sources exceeding limit:
No sources exceeding limit:
Orchard Knob Middle, Rivermont Elementary, Sale Creek Middle and High, Alpine Crest Elementary, Central High, CSLA, Daisy Elementary, Hillcrest Elementary, Hunter Middle, Soddy Daisy Middle, Soddy Daisy High, Snow Hill Elementary, Thrasher Elementary, Wallace Smith Elementary, Woodmore Elementary, Washington Alternative