CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Garinger High School water fountain recently registered a lead level of more than 43 times higher than the federal action level, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' records.
Once available for students to use, that cafeteria water fountain is now out of service after recording the highest lead level in the district to date.
CMS sent a letter to parents this week, alerting them of the situation, but administrators stopped short of sharing the full results. Instead, the letter told parents the full lead results are available online.
"The letters were simply designed to alert the parents that the complete report with all available information is available online," CMS Executive Director of Communications Renee McCoy said. "It would not have been practical to send full reports to families in letter form when it would be much easier to view all information online."
Former CMS Environmental Health and Safety Department manager Brian Kasher said parents deserve full disclosure.
"It's a matter of parents have a right to know. They really do," Kasher, a member of Coalition for Safe and Healthier CMS Schools, said. "We feel parents should be given full, total and timely information up front. The district should have definitely outlined all the information parents needed in that letter. The level at Garinger is so off the charts."
The level at Garinger was 658, according to the test results. The federal action level is 15.
The water fountain there joins a classroom sink at Northeast Middle School, also now out of service, as the latest CMS sites home to elevated lead levels. NMS' results came in at twice the action level at 29. Parents of students there received a similar letter.
The district started its voluntary lead testing program last year and, in the process, found more than two dozen schools with elevated levels. CMS initially didn't share the results with the public, which infuriated parents and community members. The district only started posting all results online after we started asking questions.
While it's a vast improvement, Kasher said it's still not enough.
"At least now (parents are) getting partial information without taking any steps," Kasher said. "What the coalition is working towards is getting timely, complete and thorough information that's meaningful to parents on a quick turn-around basis."
While kids are especially vulnerable to lead exposure, experts say the impacts are hard to quantify and recommend anyone with concerns contact their doctor. In the future, Kasher and others want the district to share that recommendation in its letters to parents, as well as the EPA's action level for comparison purposes.