HCS Conducts Latest Round of School Water Testing


Hamilton County Schools (HCS) places the highest priority on the safety of our students and staff. This  includes environmental factors, like water quality. 

Under Tennessee Code Annotated 49-2-133, local boards of education are required to periodically test  for lead in drinking water sources. To safeguard the health of our students and staff, HCS has conducted  ongoing sampling, testing, and reporting for lead in drinking water across all its schools for the past two  years. In terms of allowable lead limits and schools being tested, HCS has adopted guidelines that go  beyond the law’s requirements. 

According to state law, if a water sample tests at or above 20 parts per billion (ppb), the school shall  immediately remove the drinking water source from service. Hamilton County Schools (HCS) has adopted a stricter standard of 15 ppb to immediately remove the drinking water source from service until corrective  action can be taken. Additionally, HCS has sampled all schools, even though only buildings built prior to  1998 are required by state law. 

In 2020, we began testing water outlets at our schools for lead as part of a new regulation in Tennessee  for schools built prior to 1998. During Summer 2020, samples were collected from over 2,000 different  water outlets at 53 schools. During Summer 2021, over 1,000 additional samples were collected as part  of a voluntary effort at schools built in 1998 or later.  

In 2022, we have retested all schools built prior to 1998 that were originally tested in 2020. Samples from  24 schools were collected over spring break and reported in May, and the remaining 27 pre-1998 schools  were tested this summer to complete this round of testing. 

Out of 806 samples recently collected at the 27 schools, 12 (1.4%) samples included lead at a  concentration at or greater than the state’s limit of 20 ppb. Each of these 12 water outlets were  immediately removed from use, and remediation work and retesting will be performed as soon as  possible. The 12 outlets are located at 11 facilities. There are no concerns with the overall quality or  safety of drinking water at any of the tested facilities. (The list of 27 tested schools, noting those with  anomalies, is included at the end of this release.) 

“Hamilton County Schools is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our students and  staff,” said HCS Chief Operations Officer Dr. Robert Sharpe. “As a part of that commitment, we have held  ourselves to stricter water testing standards than those required by the state, and we have worked to be  transparent about our test results to school families and our community. Today’s release of our most  recent test results is the latest step in that process.”

 3074 Hickory Valley Road • Chattanooga, TN 37421  Tel: 423-498-6762 • www.hcde.org 

Families of students at the 27 tested schools will receive an email notification detailing the results at their  schools. Copies of those letters, as well as complete testing results, can be found on the District Water  Testing website. 

Why Test? 

Lead typically enters drinking water due to the wearing away of piping, faucets, fixtures, and other  plumbing materials. Because lead is tasteless, odorless, and colorless in drinking water, testing is a way  to learn if lead is present. It is important to sample each faucet or water fountain that is used for drinking  or food prep because test results can vary between outlets and various water chemistry changes can  change levels over time. HCS has been working with a contractor to utilize results to identify and  remediate sources of lead. When a test result indicates elevated lead content, additional testing is  conducted to determine the source of the lead. Once that investigation, corrective action, and retesting  are complete, the water sources may be reopened. HCS will continue to provide updates and share all  testing data along the way. 


Understanding Results 

We are committed to keeping you informed every step of the way as we test and improve the water  quality in our schools. Lead test results from the past three years can be viewed in a table on the District  Water Testing website. The EPA action level is 15 ppb. State of TN school lead testing requires sources  over 20 ppb to be removed from service until corrective action can be taken. HCS is remediating any  source over 15 ppb. All sources over 15 ppb have been immediately removed from service. The  corrective action columns show a brief description of actions taken, as needed. Results that are below the  laboratory detection limit, indicated with a less than sign, mean that the laboratory was not able to detect  lead in the sample. The source ID is a unique identifier for the drinking water outlet, associated with  information collected about location and outlet type. 

How are Samples Collected? 

Samples are collected following a standard operating procedure incorporating the United States  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Training, Testing, and Taking Action (3Ts) program and the  requirements of the state legislation. Water must be standing in plumbing overnight before samples are  collected. A “first draw” sample of water that has been standing in plumbing overnight will be collected in  laboratory supplied sample bottles. Each sample is assigned a unique number and each source will be  tagged with a sticker displaying the unique number. The sample is then supplied to a separate qualified  laboratory for conducting chemical analyses.

Summer 2022 Water Testing Summary 

School – Variances 

Alpine Crest Elementary – None 

Barger Elementary  – 1 

Brainerd High – 1 

Central High l – None 

CSAS – 1 

CSLA – None 

Daisy Elementary – None 

Dalewood Middle – 1 

Dupont Elementary – 2 

Hamilton County High – 1 

(Harrison Bay Future Ready Center)  

Hillcrest Elementary – None 

Hunter Middle – None 

Normal Park Lower – 1 

Normal Park Upper – 1 

North Hamilton County – 1 

Orchard Knob Middle – None 

Red Bank High School – 1 

Rivermont Elementary – None 

Sale Creek Middle/High – None 

Sequoyah High – 1 

Soddy Daisy Middle – None 

Soddy Daisy High – None 

Snow Hill Elementary – None 

Thrasher Elementary – None 

Wallace Smith Elementary – None 

Woodmore Elementary – None 

Washington Alternative – None

For additional Information, Contact: 

Steve Doremus, Hamilton County Schools Communications Officer Email: doremus_s@hcde.org