GREENSBORO — Parents asked for assurance Thursday that all faucets at Southeast Guilford Middle would have levels of lead that are guaranteed safe for cooking and drinking when students start school Aug. 27.
About 30 parents, students and staff gathered for a meeting with school leaders Thursday night to discuss the safety of water from taps at school buildings in response to tests this winter that showed high levels of lead in water at three schools, including Southeast Guilford Middle.
This winter the district tested one tap per school of the 99 schools they own that are connected to a municipal water source. The system has to test schools that get water from wells, but they are not required to test those using municipal water. They also do not get money specifically to do such testing; in this case, the cities of Greensboro and High Point paid for the schools to test.
It was the first time Guilford County Schools has done a test like this of which he is aware, said Chief Operations Officer Scott McCully.
Thursday’s meeting was the first of three the district plans to hold for the schools whose one tap they tested had a result that was nearly 20 parts per billion or greater, which is the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says schools need to take steps to fix a problem.
A small, white hand-washing sink in Southeast Guilford Middle’s kitchen tested at 194 ppb. After the district replaced the faucet, officials retested the water, confirming that the lead result was down below detectable levels.
McCully said the district is conducting an inventory, first at those three schools, and then at the others in the district, to find out what other faucets they might have from the 80s or earlier, before an important set of regulations came into play for amounts of lead allowable in a new faucet. From what he understands, McCully said, the schools weren’t required to take those out, but since the three faucets across the district that tested so high were from the 1970s or ’80s, they now really want to take a look to see what they’ve got elsewhere.
Many of the parents at the meeting expressed impatience when McCully said he wasn’t sure yet how long that would take. They wanted assurance that all the faucets in the school would have levels of lead that are guaranteed safe for cooking and drinking when the kids come back to school.
“They did a lot of reassuring, but didn’t have a whole lot of answers,” parent Nita Grimsley said after the meeting.
PTSA President Treena Jackson said she was appreciative that the schools tested for lead. She also told McCully that it’s crucial that the schools bring in someone, such as a physician, with medical expertise to give advice to parents and staff on whether there could have been harm to anyone who drank water from that sink prior to the replacement. She said she felt they should have done that already, and now should get it done by next week.
Parent B.J. Bodkin offered to set up the school to get free bottled water from Primo, the bottled water company where he works, in the interim while the district looks into the other faucets at the school.
District leaders are working to schedule meetings at Allen Jay and Frazier elementary schools, where they also replaced a faucet to correct lead levels at the taps they tested.