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GCPS to Test Water For Lead

March 21, 2023  Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) receives drinking water from the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources, which sets water quality goals higher than those required by state and federal regulations and consistently complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Therefore, the water quality in GCPS facilities is comparable to water generally available to the public in any other county location. The well-being of our students and staff is a top priority; this includes access to safe drinking water. GCPS has a long history of successful inspections and continues to comply with state and federal laws.

In response to the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act, GCPS began testing drinking water for lead content in November 1987 with assistance from the Gwinnett County Water Department. When a sample exceeded the new standard, action was taken to identify the source of the elevated lead level and correct the problem. By January 13, 1989, all Gwinnett County Public Schools had been tested for lead in water and met the new standard. GCPS also modified its Construction Guide Specifications in 1988 to align with new regulations and require Architects and Contractors to comply with requirements regarding no lead in-building domestic water systems and to certify that only lead-free water coolers are used in the construction of new schools, additions, or renovations. 

By January 31, 1990, per Federal regulation, GCPS had inspected all schools for lead-containing water coolers, including those identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). None in use were found to pose a health hazard. As manufacturers provided more information the following year, GCPS replaced 24 water coolers through sponsored replacement/refund programs. On March 23, 1992, this was reported to the Georgia Department of Education in reply to an EPA-requested survey of local school systems. Available records show that GCPS continued working with the Gwinnett County Water Department to test for lead in drinking water in new schools and additions through March of 1994.   

In October 2016, due to renewed public concern raised by a highly publicized situation in Flint, Michigan, GCPS worked with the Gwinnett County Water Department to spot-check 10 schools selected across the district, representing the oldest facility, the newest, and many in between. This included schools with and without additions and renovations. Three samples were taken from each location. All 30 samples measured 0 ppb of lead (reported in the equivalent micrograms per liter, ug/l). The EPA requires that lead mitigation action must be taken if 15 ppb of lead is found in water samples.

As of March 2023, GCPS is in the beginning stages of developing a plan to begin a new series of water tests. As the largest school district in the state with 142 schools, each with dozens of drinking water sources, creating that plan and carrying out testing will not happen overnight. With that said, GCPS has prioritized developing a testing plan and is committed to ensuring the water in its schools remains safe to consume, and the district will do everything it its power to ensure it remains that way.