Two public school systems in Coastal Georgia would have little use for federal funding for the replacement of lead water pipes in campus buildings.
Water pipes in the public school systems in Glynn and McIntosh counties are lead-free, their superintendents say.
One of Georgia’s own freshman senators is requesting millions of dollars in funding to address lead pipes in schools. Sen. Jon Ossoff is seeking $200 million to replace lead pipes in schools and $100 million for remediation of lead pipes in the nation’s communities.
The funding is included in the $35 billion Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act. It passed the Senate 89-2 and is now in the House.
Lead, which can get into drinking water via old pipes and lead-solder connections, can retard mental and physical development. It poses the greatest threat to children and pregnant women.
Glynn County Schools Superintendent Scott Spence said it is not an issue in public schools here.
In 2016, limited testing was conducted at Glynn Academy and St. Simons Elementary, two of the system’s oldest schools.
“Lead was detected in the water cooler at Wood Gym (at Glynn Academy), and it was replaced,” he said.
Newer schools have PVC piping, including Burroughs-Molette Elementary, he said.
Nevertheless, Spence added, “If there is a movement afoot to test and abate lead in drinking water, we will certainly participate.”
Jim Pulos, superintendent of schools in McIntosh County, said the drinking water at the county’s public schools is safe.
“I have consulted with my facility manager regarding this matter, and he has informed me that none of our buildings have lead pipes,” Pulos said.
In Glynn County, the school system and other water customers of Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission need not worry about lead in what the utility is supplying them. Jay Sellers, administrator director of the utility, said the water sent to their lines more than meets lead standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Our distribution network has used lead-free joining methods since at least the 1980s,” Sellers said. “Any trace amount that’s detected would be from a joining compound used in the manufacturing side of the hardware, such as valves and tees. Any time we excavate brass fittings during main repair, we replace those fittings to help ensure that no trace of lead remains.
“The lead level we continue to monitor within the distribution network is measured in parts per billion and well within regulated testable limits.”
The utility recently posted its annual water quality report, which can be found at https://www.bgjwsc.org/departments/water-production/waterqualityreport.
“No meters or backflow preventors installed by the JWSC contain lead,” Sellers said. “We were directed by the EPA to pull any that contained lead and manufacturers helped us identify which devices contained lead. We confirmed those were replaced by 2008.
“We do take water samples at the customer’s point-of-use fixtures on private plumbing as directed by EPA to help them maintain a record of how many houses in the community still contain plumbing with lead-based solder joints. Those internal fixtures wouldn’t have any adverse impact upon the rest of the distribution network.”
Not all school schools can claim to be lead-free, which is why Ossoff is pushing for federal funding.
“I’m grateful my colleagues on both sides of the aisle came together to pass this bill to ensure clean water in our public schools,” he said. “All of our children deserve clean, healthy drinking water, and I’m proud to deliver this crucial funding. I have ensured this water bill provides funding for the removal of lead pipes in our public schools. This is a huge win for Georgia.”