Shelby County commission approves $80,000 for lead testing

Council Funding Lead Testing

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Shelby County Commissioners taking action to address the thousands of children potentially affected by elevated levels of lead.

The commission appropriated $80,000.00 for lead testing and the potential fallout from test results.

On-site testing at affected schools could begin as early as next week.

The Shelby County Health Department and SCS leaders will be meeting to hammer out the logistics. “I would urge those parents who believe their children might be affected to get tested,” said Edmund Ford, Jr. who co-sponsored the bill along with Commissioner Amber Mills.

State mandated lead testing found 35 schools in Shelby County to have unsafe levels of lead in water sources such as water fountains and ice machines. “This number was shocking to me and it was at my child's school,” said Heidi Rupke who has a daughter that attends Idlewild Elementary School.

The midtown school had elevated lead levels in 3 different water sources. It was the same school that Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray used during a media walk through to reassure parents that all contaminated water sources have been discontinued and not in use in schools.

However Rupke isn't convinced. “I have a letter here requesting the full report. I want all the numbers, data that was taken,” said Rupke. Some commissioners expressed even deeper concerns

Commissioner Van Turner wants S-C-S to also test the pipes. “If you take the water fountain out and put a new water fountain in and the pipes are questionable, there still can be issues,” said Turner. The Shelby County health department's director Alisa Haushalter says her department will review all of the sites tested and make recommendations to SCS including pipes. “The risk from our perspective is minimal, but we want to make sure parents have all the information that they need,” said Haushalter. SCS says the lead build-up is a result of infrequent use of certain water sources.

Either way commissioners passed a second resolution putting Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee general assembly on notice for a possible need for additional funding.

Currently students at any affected school can get free lead testing at any of the Shelby County Health Department clinic, but the student must have a parent present.

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