CMS Water Quality

Since CMS has been in the news about our water quality testing, I wanted to share some information with you.

CMS began voluntary testing the water quality of each individual fixture in older elementary schools last year with the plan to test ALL fixtures in building that predate changes in plumbing standards in 1989. We began with schools serving younger students because they are more vulnerable to lead. The overwhelming number of fixtures tested within safety guidelines. In fact, to date CMS has spent over $230,000 for testing and analysis and required less than $17,000 for remediation/repairs.

Of the elementary schools in District 4 that were tested, Billingsville, Briarwood, Chantilly, Clear Creek, Elizabeth Traditional, Oakhurst STEAM, Shamrock Gardens, and Windsor Park had NO fixtures with elevated lead levels.

Two schools, Albemarle Road Elementary and Winterfield Elementary each had one fixture with elevated lead levels. Neither of these water sources were ‘consumption points’ (likely hose bibs either in custodial closet or outside). Fixtures at these schools posed NO hazards to students. Both fixtures now have warning signs.

All of the tests included two draws of water. The first was a first draw, the second was after flushing the line (you may read the details of the testing procedures in the reports). Two additional schools had two fixtures with elevated lead levels on the first draw test followed below threshold levels on the ‘flush’ test. At Hickory Grove Elementary two fixtures were removed. At Devonshire Elementary two fixtures were repaired/replaced.

Reports from each tested school are available here >>

Here is CMS’s statement on our water quality testing program, including statements from three outside experts sought out by the Charlotte Observer speak to the safety of CMS water:

CMS launched a proactive water quality program in district schools, voluntarily paying experts to conduct tests that are not required but that we believe are important to protect the health and safety of our students and staff. Our goal is to test water quality in all schools and to take any action necessary to ensure high water quality.

Based on independent, third party testing and analysis, CMS believes that the water in our community’s schools is safe. The results have been shared with our schools, our families, employees and the public. Results for individual schools are also available online. We will also continue to share the results available to families, employees and the public.

We will continue the testing program in the coming school year, focusing first on our oldest schools, and we will continue to do what it takes to keep people safe.

The Experts And Their Findings

Independent, third party experts are leading testing. The district is working with an independent third party, AECOM Technical Services of North Carolina Inc. Testing, as well as subsequent repairs and replacements of particular fixtures, is conducted with expert guidance.

These experts concluded that the risk of lead/copper exposure for students and staff was low. These findings are supported by outside experts quoted in local media coverage.

  • Dr. Greg Pillar, a Queens University professor of environmental science and a CMS parent, told WCNC, “As someone who has a child at CMS, I am not overly concerned. What I saw in there would be almost no different than someone having their home tested and finding elevated levels and then addressing them.”
  • M. Todd Coolbaugh, an assistant chemistry professor at Johnson C. Smith, told the Charlotte Observer that, “you’re probably taking a bigger chance driving to (school) than you are drinking the water once you get there.”
  • Stephen Graham, an environmental health program manager for the county health department, said “It sounds like the risk is low.”

No water quality issues have been found that affect entire schools. It is misleading to say that entire schools showed elevated levels of lead and copper. In fact, the tests showed that water coming from a small number of individual fixtures at schools exceeded the alert level. Most of these fixtures were in areas that students and staff did not use. All of the fixtures have been repaired, replaced or removed. Repaired and replaced fixtures have been retested to be sure the water coming from them is within safe levels. Details of these actions can be found on our water quality website.

How We Are Sharing Information

Parents are notified prior to testing at schools. Parents will be notified should any conditions be found that experts advise may pose serious concerns related to the health or safety of students and staff. To share information with families and the public, here’s what we have done so far:

Website: Created a special page on the CMS website with information about testing, results and FAQ’s at this link .
Direct communications to all parents: Information on the proactive testing, results and sources for further information was sent to all parents and we will continue to communicate with families.
Social media: Posted information to CMS social media on CMS FB, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. See Facebook post here at this link.
Phone calls: Connect messages have been made available to send to school communities from the principal in all schools.

Anyone with questions about water quality testing results in CMS schools can email for more information.

CMS is proceeding with water quality testing.

Please contact me if I can provide any additional information.