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Atlanta schools with high lead levels in drinking water get repairs

Nearly 40 percent of Atlanta school district buildings had high lead levels in one or more water fountains and sinks when Atlanta Public Schools tested its facilities this spring and summer.

After repairs, lead levels in those buildings have dropped, district records obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act show.

But even after repairs, district tests at at least 25 Atlanta schools and other facilities found lead. Levels ranged from 2 parts per billion to 11 parts per billion.

Atlanta began testing this spring, after news of dangerously high lead levels in Flint, Michigan. DeKalb County schools and Fulton County schools are also testing their facilities.

To date, DeKalb has completed testing at two buildings. One, Redan Elementary School, had elevated lead levels in two drinking water sources. Those water sources have been turned off and the district plans to replace fixtures it believes are contributing to lead in the water, according to a statement posted on DeKalb’s water-testing website.

Fulton’s testing program is limited to the 14 district buildings with plumbing systems or components installed before 1986. The testing started last week and results are expected by the end of next week, district spokesperson Susan Hale said.

The Atlanta school district plans to develop a regular water testing schedule and flush all taps and fountains in schools unoccupied for longer than seven days.

No law requires testing water for lead in Georgia schools or day care centers.

And there’s no state or federal rule regulating lead in schools’ drinking water. But there are some guidelines:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school water fountains not exceed lead concentrations of 1 part per billion.
  • Federal law requires water systems, such as Atlanta Watershed, to try to reduce lead in drinking water if tests show lead levels above 15 parts per billion.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools and child care facilities make repairs if any samples from any one drinking water source show results above 20 parts per billion.

Even low levels of lead in children’s blood can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, slowed growth and other problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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