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Lead found in Rowan-Salisbury elementary school's water

School officials did not say if any children had been impacted by the elevated levels of lead in the water.

MOUNT ULLA, N.C. — A regularly scheduled water test found elevated levels of lead in the water at Mt. Ulla Elementary School last week.

According to Jeanie McDowell, interim senior marketing and communication officer for Rowan-Salisbury School System, the water quality test sample taken from that school that showed the elevated lead levels only impacted the drinking water in the building. It did not impact the restroom facilities.

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"Out of an abundance of caution, we immediately created an alternative solution for drinking water," McDowell wrote. "We have shut off our water fountains and delivered water bottles to our classrooms. Meals will be prepared without water from the building. We have scheduled additional testing with the Rowan County Health Department and will continue with these safety measures until we receive the results in approximately two weeks."

Parents were informed of the lead detection in a phone call and email.

“Of course, it was a little bit concerning, but they seem to be taking the steps that they need to take to try to correct it," mom Wendy Shields said.

As for what constitutes a high level of lead, the EPA set the action level at 15 ppb under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In 2019, North State Representatives proposed a bill to require schools to test for lead. That bill never became law, yet still, most NC school districts voluntarily test the water.

RELATED: Defenders: CMS not testing any more schools for lead; other local districts still haven't tested any

"Certain locations are required to have testing of their water supply – this is governed by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) under the Lead and Copper rule," Rowan County Health Department told WCNC Charlotte. "Following a notification of an excedent of lead by DEQ to NCDHHS who then notifies local health department, local REHS take water samples in a very specific way to collect more information. This allows health departments to act under the 1,700 rules that cover approved water supply if found to be contaminated. In the meantime, often the access to whichever faucet tested positive for lead is restricted as a precautionary measure. My understanding is the faucet that was identified is not used for food preparation or for drinking water for staff and students."

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Some physical symptoms will present if you've consumed water with elevated levels of lead, including abdominal pain or vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and irritability. 

Rowan-Salisbury Schools did not say if any children had been impacted by the elevated levels of lead in the water.

Monday morning, Rowan County Health Department collected several samples and sent those samples to the NC state lab to test. Those test results will be available in two weeks. 

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