Is Leon County Schools' water safe to drink?

Is Leon County Schools' water safe to drink?
Is Leon County Schools' water safe to drink?
Posted at 6:26 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-24 13:37:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - The Leon County School District is getting some push back from community members who believe there's too much lead in the water.

The district maintains the water, and your children, are safe.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan exploded onto the national stage three years ago making school officials everywhere wonder: Could we be next?

"We did some initial testing and we had a couple elevated areas," said Rod McQueen, a Building Official for Leon County Schools. He says last summer, researchers asked to test for lead in the water at 16 school sites.

"The results were higher than I'd like to see," said Donald Axelrad, Ph.D. The Florida A&M University professor helped conduct the testing, saying: "Some would say [the district] complies with U.S. EPA guidelines, the problem being U.S. EPA guidelines are not protective of public health."

Environmental Protection Agency guidelines cover school districts nationwide. The guidelines require action to be taken if any tests come back higher than 15 parts per billion.

"We're flushing our systems three times a week. We've taken samples and we've tested and right now we're at about 200 samples in the past year and out of those 200 samples, we might have had two that exceeded that 15 ppb," said McQueen. "We're replacing the water lines at Cobb Middle School, Nims Middle School, and Raleigh Elementary School. Those are three of our older schools."

Some of the elevated levels have come from old fixtures or lines with sediment, which district officials say they've fixed. Still, some worry more needs to be done.

"Very low levels of lead can have profound cognitive impacts," said Dr. Ronald Saff of Allergy & Asthma Diagnostic Treatment Center Tallahassee.

"As opposed to other states which learned the lessons from Flint and passed legislation mandating that schools test for lead in drinking water and take action, here in Florida legislation is not even being considered," said Saff.

If you're concerned about the water your child is drinking, you do have one clear option: fill a pitcher at home with filtered water and fill bottles for your child to take with them.

Axelrad and Saff have suggested installing filtration systems on drinking fountains and faucets district-wide; An expensive undertaking that the district is technically not required to implement.

"You're looking at half a million dollars," said McQueen. "That's a lot of money to have to put on the taxpayers to filter a water system that does not have a problem."

You can see detailed results from the testing at Leon County Schools on their district website here.

You can find out more about EPA water quality standards here

Find more info on childhood lead toxicity from the American Academy of Pediatrics here.