The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has begun testing schools throughout the state for potential lead in drinking water. Once screening ends, over 14,000 drinking water samples from 7,000 school buildings will be tested. So far, only 118 schools have been tested in a pilot project, but the results are concerning.
According to the DEQ, out of 118 schools tested so far, 24 show evidence of lead-contaminated drinking water—a result translating into a 1 in 5 ratio.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion—anything higher must be addressed for public safety. Even this level may be too high, as lead is a potent toxin that accumulates in the body, causing anemia, weakness, kidney and brain damage, neurological effects, and impaired mental function.
Young children are especially at risk of lead poisoning. The DEQ began the water screening program by selecting high risk schools for the first round of testing. Such schools were built before 1987, after which the use of lead plumbing and soldering was banned. The DEQ also chose schools from “high risk” zip codes and those which housed children five years old or younger.
Trevor Baggiore, the DEQ deputy director for water quality, suggests the initial testing results may not reflect a statewide concern and that the actual ratio is lower than twenty percent. He cites the fact that while 24 positive results were found in 118 schools, the water samples came from multiple buildings. Samples exceeding the EPA action level were found in 946 buildings, which brought the positive ratio down to a much lower 2.5 percent.
Either way, the presence of even a small amount of lead in school water is a concern for parents. Schools where lead was detected implemented several solutions, ranging from shutting off water supplies to entire buildings to letting taps run for a minute to flush out lead before taking drinks. Some schools are providing bottled water to students—a safe solution, albeit an expensive one.
At home, you have a cheaper means of ensuring your family’s drinking and cooking water is lead-free. An easily installed lead drinking filter will keep your family safe from lead-contaminated water. Call Pelican Water today to discuss how to test your water for lead, and what steps you can take to safeguard your family.