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Traces of lead found in paint chips at Cumberland County's William H. Owen elementary

Posted August 18
Updated August 19

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— Cumberland County Schools officials are working to remove lead from an elementary school after an environmental study found the metal in areas accessible to students.

A letter from school and county officials sent to parents on Wednesday said the study found traces of lead at William H. Owen Elementary School, located at 4533 Raeford Road. The lead was found primarily on the exterior of the school.

Following health department recommendations, the school system is working to remove the lead prior to students starting the new school year on Aug. 29.

Lead was not found in any classrooms, and water samples did not show any lead levels, officials said. Cumberland County Superintendent Frank Till said the lead was mostly found in samples of paint taken from windows outside the school.

During a news conference Thursday morning, Buck Wilson, the Cumberland County Health Department director, said he does not believe any children were exposed.

"There is an area walking out of the school, above where you're walking out to a bus stop and the poles in the path where you go to the busses," he said. "It's not an area where students would stand for long periods of time."

In the short term, officials plan to block off the area around the windows before scraping and painting them. No other schools in the district were affected, Till said.

"There are no issues in the water, but there are some small areas that we can mitigate, so we are in that process now...we have no concerns about the opening of school," Till said.

No student or staff is known to have elevated levels on lead in their blood, but the Cumberland County Health Department is offering free blood testing at the school on Sept. 12 for students and staff. Testing is also offered at the Cumberland County Department of Public Health building Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours on Tuesdays until 7 p.m.

Parents with questions or concerns can contact Cumberland County Health Lead Nurse Sandra Shipley at 910-433-3689.

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