County commissioner says lead testing should extend to schools listed in 2017 report

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A county commissioner is concerned after learning about documents WREG uncovered that show some schools had dangerous amounts of lead two years ago.

The schools are in addition to the more than 30 recently found to have unsafe levels of lead in at least one water source.

The health department will soon start testing students at those schools for lead.

“That does not, in my opinion, get Shelby County Schools off the hook,” said Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford.

Ford believes the commission has been doing all of the work.

“I say that because of things I’ve seen, but mostly things I haven’t seen as far as action is concerned,” he said.

SCS said a new state law required them to test every school for lead, but it didn’t offer any resources to fix it.

While officials said they shut off and removed contaminated equipment, they didn’t offer any free lead screenings for students.

So Ford said he got the commission to find the money for testing, and now he’s concerned they’ll need to include even more schools.

This is after WREG found out SCS did some random lead tests at more than 100 schools in 2017, and 19 schools were found to have dangerous amounts of it in at least one water source.

The district told us they removed the equipment and notified parents and faculty immediately.

But parents don’t remember that.

In fact, since we first told you about the 2017 test results last week even more parents have reached out saying they don’t recall any notifications.

The district said they didn’t save the robocalls from 2017, but they do have some emails talking about notifying parents. They have yet to share those emails.

WREG also put in an open records request at the health department asking if they tested any students following the 2017 results like they are doing now. Officials told us there were no responsive records.

“We have children’s lives and their health at stake. We need to stop playing games,” said Ford.

Ford believes the money allocated for testing should be able to cover students attending those schools flagged in 2017.

He plans on discussing it at the next commission meeting in January and invites SCS to be involved in that discussion. WREG will let you know what happens.

In the meantime, SCS officials said the board signed a contract Tuesday night at a special called meeting that will allow the health department to start the testing.

They said so far, “not many” parents have opted for the lead testing.

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