State lawmakers respond after lead found in water at Guilford County Schools

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- After Joy Thomas saw our story about lead found in the water at Southeast Guilford Middle School, she took her son to the doctor to have him tested for lead toxicity.

Thankfully, the tests showed he was okay but Thomas is not satisfied.

“I'm sure that one faucet isn’t the only old faucet so why aren’t they testing the other ones?” Thomas said.

With the help of Greensboro Water Resources, Guilford County Schools only took one water sample from each school. Tests showed water at three schools, Southeast Middle, Frazier, and Allen Jay had high levels of lead.

Water Resources determined the lead was coming from the actual faucet so the school district replaced those three faucets. That was in March.

Guilford County Schools didn’t tell parents about the test results and remediation until after FOX8’s story aired four months later on July 26.

“I’ve been a parent in Guilford County Schools for 18 years and this is probably the most upset I’ve been about something. That they just didn’t communicate it. I realize they fixed the problem at the source where they tested but there’s a lot of other faucets in that school. Why haven’t they tested those? Drinking fountains?” Thomas said.

Guilford County Schools doesn’t have to. There’s no state law requiring school districts to test the water.

Municipalities test the water feeding the schools but it stops there. That’s news to many parents.

“I never once thought, 'Is the drinking water at my child’s school safe?' I just assumed it would be. I assumed it is tested for all of these things,” Thomas said.

State lawmakers have tried to change that. Representatives Pricey Harrison and John Faircloth have both sponsored bills that would require schools and day cares to test water at the tap for lead. Those bills never made it out of committee.

“We have no idea all of the children who drank from the particular spigots and what they developed later on. Are they successful in life? Let’s hope they were but science has told us lead is dangerous. It just does not make sense to ignore it” Faircloth said.

“It would be my hope that Guilford County Schools would find the resources to start the testing now even though it’s not mandatory and then the legislature would come through with significant, sufficient funding to fund this testing all over our state. There’s no child that should be exposed to lead,” Harrison said.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., already require or provide incentives for water testing in schools.

“There’s more the legislature should be doing to facilitate this and we should and we must,” Harrison said.

“It’s another expense and the money has to come from somewhere but I don’t know how you put a price on a child’s brain,” Faircloth said. “As a watchman for the public, I do have to be aware that this is a problem that has come up and it’s going to be handled one way or the other.”