Published: October 5, 2018

    High Lead Levels Found in Tampa Bay Elementary School

    Florida school officials in Pinellas County alerted families last month that the water at Azalea Elementary in St. Petersburg tested positive for dangerous levels of lead. As a precaution the employees at the school switched to bottled water for all consumption after the discovery was made.

    An email from district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf explained that the water supply of Azalea Elementary had recently been tested for lead, and the results indicated a lead level of 45 parts per billion (ppb) at the water meter. The lead action level recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency is 15 parts per billion.

    However, according to the EPA’s website no level of lead in drinking water is considered safe for human consumption, especially for children in an elementary school. A low dose of lead can have a lasting negative impact on a child’s health. The EPA states, “low levels of [lead] exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.”

    Unlike most other water contaminants there is no maximum contaminant level (MCL) for lead because pipe corrosion is often the leading cause of contamination. Instead, the EPA requires a water system to take action if 10 percent or more of water samples from that system indicate lead levels at 15 ppb or above.

    All schools within Pinellas County have their water tested once a year for various contaminants. Sites with results nearing the lead action level are tested four times a year. “Azalea’s water supply is routinely tested and every previous test was within safe limits,” said Wolf in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

    Families were notified during the school day that Azalea Elementary received the testing results. Just a few weeks prior the Tampa Bay Times revealed that neighboring Hillsborough County School District had kept high lead levels secret from students and their families for a year after receiving test results of the water in their district.

    At Azalea Elementary bottled water was used for drinking and for food preparation as further tests were conducted on site. Some parents took their children to pediatricians to get their blood tested after picking them up from school, concerned for their safety.

    Tests conducted after the initial results returned much lower lead levels. A test conducted two days later showed lead levels of .05 ppb at the meter and .01 ppb in the cafeteria of Azalea Elementary. This announcement from the school eased the worries of some families, but other parents were alarmed and confused by the discrepancy.

    “I don’t know,” said Kathryn Medina, a grandparent to one of Azalea’s students, to WTSP. “Why is it not good one day… and good the next day?”

    Prevent lead from reaching your children at home by installing a Pelican Drinking Water Purification System. Our state-of-the-art filter removes lead at a rate of 99%, and also reduces chlorine, viruses, bacteria, and cysts. Lead is not a contaminant to be taken lightly – address any concerns of lead contamination before they become irreversible.