KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A sink faucet in a teacher workroom and a kitchen faucet at East Knox County Elementary had high levels of lead following a routine test, according to the Knox County Schools Environmental Department.
In a letter sent home to parents last week, the district said two out of the 21 outlets tested at the school returned test results with levels above 20 ppb.
"One of the locations identified was a kitchen tap that was not being used, so it has been removed from service. The other was a sink faucet in a teacher workroom that was taken offline immediately. It is being replaced and will be resampled this week," Knox County Schools spokesperson Carly Harrington said Tuesday.
The letter, which was dated Aug. 16, was sent by Superintendent Bob Thomas.
"I think it is important to know that the kitchen faucet in question has not been used for at least two years. Our standard procedure is that outlets identified with elevated levels of lead are immediately taken out of service. They are then subject to follow-up testing to determine the root cause of the elevated levels. Based on those results, the water source in question will either be replaced or removed. All of this is done promptly and with the foremost commitment to prioritizing student and staff health and safety," he wrote in the letter.
Lead is a common naturally occurring metal. However, when ingested, lead can cause health and developmental issues, particularly in pregnant women, infants, and children under 6 years of age.
According to the district, Knox County Schools has maintained a program of testing for lead in water in schools for several years.
"In 2018, the state of Tennessee implemented guidelines that required water testing in schools and established some very specific protocols for that process," Harrington said in an email to 10News. "The Board of Education approved a policy in December 2018 to implement the new guidelines and notification protocols established by the state statute [known as policy E-121 Testing of Drinking Water for Contamination]. The school system changed its process to comply with the new policy and statutes."
Harrington said under the new protocols, the school system has been required to expand its testing and the frequency of testing.
"Generally speaking, when results above 20 ppb are received, it has been in one or two outlets in a facility," she said. "Outlets have been replaced and follow up tested to ensure the results are compliant with federal guidelines."
There have been no facilities tested that have a facility-wide reading above 20 ppb, according to Harrington.
She also said letters similar to the one sent to East Knox parents are provided to parents at other schools where testing results dictate such action.