GCS replacing some water fountains in schools (copy)

Guilford County Schools plumber Rick Myers replaces a water fountain at Southeast Middle School, where four water fountains are being replaced in a photo taken in Greensboro, NC on Oct. 4, 2018.

GREENSBORO — Guilford County Schools is expanding testing for lead in water at its schools and is replacing older faucets and fountains that don’t meet federal lead-free requirements for drinking water.

Testing for lead and copper contamination at the first 10 schools will cost about $14,000, the district said Thursday in a news release. The district has hired outside consultant ECS Southeast, which has facilities in Greensboro, but plans to handle faucet inventorying, replacement and related plumbing work in-house as much as possible to cut down on costs.

“We’ll continue to improve the process as we move forward through this next phase and will have a better handle on district-wide costs once we get the first wave of more extensive test results back,” Scott McCully, chief operations officer, said in the news release. “If we need to contract with additional plumbers to expedite the replacement process, we will do so.”

The district plans to test faucets used for water consumption or food preparation at 99 of its 126 schools. It will inventory them and replace or remove from service those that are 30 or more years old, or where the additional tests indicate concerns, according to the release. The district plans to retest the water at these sites after taking the remediation steps.

New schools and those not in use will not be a part of this process, the district said. Schools housed on campuses owned and operated by local community colleges or universities also won’t take part.

In the meantime, the district will continue flushing water from faucets and fountains at these schools each morning when classes are in session to clear out any water that sat in pipes overnight. Stagnant water may absorb lead or other materials from the plumbing system.

Research shows when lead builds up in young children, it can harm their intelligence, focus and behavior.

The testing and remediation process has already begun at the three schools where initial tests last school year indicated lead levels in the water above the EPA’s allowable limit, the district said.

At Allen Jay Elementary, Frazier Elementary and Southeast Middle, 30-year-old faucets and drinking fountains used for water consumption and food preparation have already been replaced. Additional water quality tests are underway or will start soon.

Once work is completed at those schools, testing will begin at the seven schools where initial tests indicated lead levels within recommended EPA guidelines. Those schools are: Swann Middle, Penn-Griffin and Claxton, Kirkman Park, Foust, Morehead and Falkner elementary schools.

The district plans to phase in the testing and remediation work, focusing first on elementary schools with prekindergarten classes and older schools, followed by elementary schools, middle and high schools. The project is expected to take months to complete, possibly into next school year. However, officials hope to get all the testing done before the next school year starts.

Test results will be shared as soon as possible with employees, parents and the public.

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