APS Tests for Lead to Ensure Safe Water in Schools

When reports began circulating several months ago about the discovery of lead in the water in public buildings in Flint, Mich., and other major cities, we in Atlanta Public Schools felt we had to do something immediately to ensure that the water in our buildings remained safe for consumption.

We immediately decided to test our water in 113 district buildings. At the time, we had not received any reports of lead in our water.

Importantly, we did not wait until someone else demanded that we do these tests. We took proactive steps on our own to ensure the safety of students and staff.


Professional from Morley Environmental tests an APS water fountain.

We purposely conducted the tests in transparent fashion, sending notices to schools, letters to parents and caregivers and posting details on the APS website. We also openly expressed our plan to report the results – again, in a similarly transparent fashion – so that everyone in the APS community would get the results of the tests and understand the steps we are taking to ensure that the water in APS schools is safe to drink and use.

Unfortunately, some reporters have triggered their own reports prematurely before investigators from Morley Environmental have the chance to finish the work. Testing was completed at all APS-owned buildings today, but all results will not be immediately available.

But we are getting data back every day that further informs us about the actual state of our water. Here’s clarification of what has actually been found so far:

Of the 750 water sources (such as sinks and water fountains) sampled thus far, 23 showed elevated levels of lead. None of them will be in service again until after a retest clears the source or corrective actions have been implemented to address the elevated levels.

The good news is that after retesting, six of the initial 23 sources showing elevated levels have already been cleared. The remaining 17 are awaiting retesting results or facility upgrades such as replacing of faucets or other plumbing fixtures.

In many cases, a test may have revealed lead, but once the source was flushed with water, the test revealed it clear of lead. For example, one school had an unused sink in a book room that initially showed an elevated presence of lead. Once flushed, the sink tested cleared.

Again, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not require these tests, but we were insistent that our tests would be conducted to the agency’s strict standards. Therefore, Morley began federal standards testing for lead. We plan to finish our investigation by late July and employ a safe water plan for schools, where necessary, before the new school year.

I want to ensure our students, families, staff and community that wherever and whenever elevated levels of lead are found in our buildings, APS will implement a plan to provide safe water for students and employees and to address immediately any contamination.

We will also keep you informed as further results of the testing develop.

You can learn more about water quality investigations at www.atlantapublicschools.us/Page/49677 or contact Yvonne Douglas, Project Manager, APS Energy and Environmental Services at 404-802-3720 or ydouglas@atlantapublicschools.us.

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