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Gray, Asbury find lead in water

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The Washington County School System is adding two more to the list of schools in the district with an excess amount of lead in two drinking fountains.

Gray Elementary School and Asbury Optional High School each had one water fountain containing an overage of lead according to state regulations. If a school drinking fountain contains 20 parts per billion or above in its water, the school system must remove the contaminated drinking source. Other drinking sources are allowed to stay in use.

“We are trying to make arrangements for bottled water to be made available at the schools,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said. “Although we had sources of water that did not test (for an overage of lead), we understand if a child doesn’t want to drink from any of the fountains at this point.”

Gray’s contaminated fountain was at 104 parts per billion and Asbury’s was at 1,490 parts per billion, according to results from Wingfield Environmental Inc. Flanary said the group will re-test Asbury’s sample to make sure that count is accurate.

Last week, the school system found that Boones Creek Elementary and West View Elementary had excess lead amounts in three fountains as well, totaling five fountains in the county with an overage of lead. According to state law, once the contaminated drinking source is removed, the source must be re-tested within 90 days. Flanary said the required re-testing for the effected sources is currently scheduled with Wingfield Environmental Inc.

As for the other Washington County Schools, tests on each of those fountains are complete and received adequate totals. Testing at Grandview Elementary and Ridgeview Elementary was not required because the schools were built after 1998.

But school water testing isn’t finished just yet; Starting in 2019, all Tennessee requires its school systems to test for excess lead amounts in drinking fountains in all schools built before 1998. However, the requirement didn’t initially include kitchen sources. Now, those will be tested as well.

“We haven’t started testing the kitchens. Originally (the state) said, ‘you’ll just have to test drinking fountains” and then the attorneys with the state department determined we have to also test in kitchens. So that will happen when school is out.”

As a precaution, Flanary said he called for Boones Creek Elementary School, which is a prep kitchen for other schools in the district, to cut out any recipes that require added water.

“I told them not to use the water to cook at Boones Creek Elementary School from an abundance of caution,” Flanary said. “We do not know that there is an abundance of lead at Boones Creek Elementary School, I just thought it was a good idea that we stop using it.

“Our food service supervisor told us it was a simple matter to not use added water and some recipes. I told her because we only had so many days of school left, we would keep that protocol in place until after school’s out.”