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Getting the lead out: Kingsport schools removing 10 water fountains, shut off three more

Rick Wagner • Aug 7, 2019 at 9:01 AM

KINGSPORT — Thirteen water fountains in Kingsport City Schools buildings, including a high school and four elementary schools, are being removed or have been disconnected and are out of use because of results from Tennessee-mandated lead tests.

According to information provided from Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True, 10 fountains will be removed and replaced because they tested position for more than 20 parts per billion of lead. Another three tested at 15-20 parts per billion and are no longer being used but will be retested before a final decision is made. Such retesting is required.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution to be sure we get these things out,” True said Tuesday evening. “We wanted to be sure every one was out of use before school started.”

The school system has notified parents of the test results but is releasing the results publicly to be sure the information is widely disseminated.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing and impaired formation and function of blood cells.

Ten water sources will be or have been removed, True said. Those total four at Dobyns-Bennett High School, three at Kennedy Elementary School and one each at Jefferson, Johnson and Roosevelt elementary schools. Recent tests of schools in Sullivan and Washington counties turned up lead levels in drinking water sources requiring they be disconnected.

Another three will be further tested but are not being used now. These are one each from Johnson, Kennedy and Roosevelt. True said all other city schools had fountains that tested at less than 15 parts per billion.

All told, True said 276 sources were tested but the five schools had the only results for 15 parts per billion or higher.

The testing is required by state law for buildings built after Jan. 1, 1998, and was done by a policy that reflects the requirements of that law. The school board adopted the policy last spring. The policy and law require the fountains be tested every two years. Solder, which contains lead, was commonly used in plumbing in the early and middle parts of the 20th century.

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