11Alive investigation leads to widespread water testing in schools

DeKalb will test for lead in school water

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. – DeKalb County will begin testing drinking water at all of its schools and facilities. The move comes after an 11Alive investigation regarding the potential for dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water.

After Atlanta Public Schools found dozens of fountains and faucets with high lead levels, 11Alive Investigator Rebecca Lindstrom surveyed other metro schools to learn about their testing program.

Lindstrom discovered most districts did not test district wide, or hadn't in 30 years.

In August when asked about their testing program, Dekalb County sent us this statement: “As a standard practice for the past 20 years, the District has not used any lead solder in any of our new construction, additions, or renovation work.  Also, all of our copper piping repairs are made using a press pipe joining process that does not require any soldering.  We continue to test and monitor water quality at all of our schools.” 

We asked for more information on how often water was tested and the number of schools included in the testing but never received a response.

On Tuesday, the district explained that in the past it had only performed periodic spot tests.  Lindstrom asked, why the change?

"Well, we've had some internal discussions that we were doing perioidic testing," explained Superintendent Stephen Green. "There were lingering questions as to whether that really was complete enough to know for sure."

“Recent events have brought national attention to water quality issues,” the district also wrote on its website. "Though we have absolutely no evidence of water quality issues in any school or building, we want to ensure that our water is safe for consumption. With this in mind, we are proactively testing the drinking water in each of our 150 schools, centers, and facilities.”

Testing will begin Sept. 20 and run through the summer of 2017.  The district will start with elementary schools and buildings that have pre-K programs, since younger children are at the greatest risk for the developmental and behavioral side effects associated with lead poisoning.

The testing will take several months because the district does not want to disrupt the learning environment.   Employees with Atlanta Environmental Management will come at 5 a.m. to the school being tested that day, to draw samples before students arrive.  A schedule is listed on the district's website along with a map that will show parents the results from each school.

Green says any water source with results over 15 parts per billion (ppb) will be shut off. Bottled water will be provided if necessary until the issue is fixed.


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Photos | Atlanta Public Schools lead testing 

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RELATED | 2,500 Georgia Children test positive for lead exposure

AND | Investigation: Thousands of Georgia children sickened by lead

ALSO | Investigation: Lead poisoning numbers may be higher than reported

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