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2018-02-28 / Front Page

Schools find lead in water tests

BY JIM McCONNELL STAFF WRITER

Testing by the Chesterfield school system has revealed elevated lead levels in drinking water at seven different schools, but the vast majority of the results came back below actionable levels.

School officials tested more than 3,700 water samples and 137 of those were found to contain lead in concentrations higher than 20 parts per billion, which is considered an acceptable threshold for drinking water in schools.

Of those 137 samples, only nine were taken from drinking water sources. All nine were linked to water fountains that have since been removed from service.

Chesterfield County Public Schools sent letters home last week to families of students at six of the schools that had elevated lead readings: Bellwood Elementary, Providence Middle, Swift Creek Middle, Salem Middle, L.C. Bird High and Midlothian High.

The highest reading was taken at Salem Middle, where a water fountain in the girls’ locker room was found to have a lead level of 56.5 parts per billion.

Families of students at O.B. Gates Elementary received a similar letter last November informing them about the test results.

In 2016, the school system proactively began testing samples from drinking water sources across the county. None of those results revealed cause for concern.

A year later, a state law was passed requiring public schools to develop and execute a plan to test drinking water in schools built in or before 1986. Even though it was not required by law, CCPS expanded its efforts and tested all water sources in schools built in 1987 or earlier.

The letters that were sent home last week each noted that moving forward, the school system “will continue to proactively test all water sources.”

School officials also believe the state law associated with testing public school water for lead needs to be more specific. The School Board intends to work with local members of the General Assembly to advocate for such a change.

“If these issues can be found even in a few locations in Chesterfield County, then we believe it should be required to have all sources tested across the state,” the letters read. ¦

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