School officials warn parents of high lead levels in East Knox County Elementary water


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Parents of students at East Knox County Elementary School received a letter warning them about high lead levels in two drinking water sources.

The letter was sent out Friday, but some parents took to social media on Wednesday, shocked they never received the letter and shocked about the levels.

RELATED: See lead levels at Knox County schools

According to the letter, two out of the 21 faucets at the elementary school tested with lead levels above 20 ppb (parts per billion.)

One of the faucets, located in a teacher breakroom, tested at 24.7 ppb; the other, a kitchen faucet, tested 91.2 ppb.

According to the letter, “the kitchen faucet in question has not been used for at least two years.”

Representative Rick Staples, of the 15th district, said he helped pass state legislation so parents would be more informed about what their kids are drinking in schools.

“We require local L.E.A.’s to develop a policy that would inform parents if the lead levels were at a certain amount and to do remediation,” Staples said.

According to the law, all school districts must develop a policy to test drinking water sources in schools for lead.

Testing must occur in schools that were built prior to Jan. 1, 1998.

If results are more than 15 ppb, but less than 20 ppb, the school must conduct testing on an annual basis until retesting confirms the level is less than 15 ppb.

If results are equal to or greater than 20 parts per billion: The drinking water source must be removed from service.

Schools must notify the Department of Health and other state agencies within 24 hours; and the school must notify parents and guardians of students within 5 business days.

Staples said the schools must also retest the lead level of the drinking water source within 90 days of any corrective action.

According to the letter, the school plans on doing all of the above:

“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.”

Staples said he was glad to know that Knox County Schools were taking the appropriate actions and following the new law.

“This letter fro Knox County shows that people are taking it seriously, they care bout our young people and the work is getting done,” Staples said.

He said that Knox County has always been ahead of other districts when it came to testing water resources.

“It’s best that parents are informed, it’s good that Knox County is taking action, and will take action to re-mediate this issue,” Staples said.

He said parents should be glad that Knox County was keeping them informed.

According to Carly Harrington, spokeswoman for Knox County School District, the district has always maintained a program to test drinking water sources for lead levels, and its protocol increased more to comply with the new state law.

Harrington also said that most schools, if they have had issues, typically only have higher lead levels in one or two faucets.

She added that there has not been entire school facility that tested higher than 20 ppb.

If parents have questions, the letter states they can contact the KCS Environmental Department at 594-3633 or

Harrington said that letters about higher lead levels have been sent out to parents from other schools.

WATE 6 On your Side is waiting to get a list of those other schools.

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