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Elevated Lead Levels Were Found In Florida's Capitol. Will ‘Get The Lead Out’ Result In Legislation?

Ryan Dailey

A group of activists want no trace of lead in Florida’s drinking water – whether it be in schools or government buildings. The group found elevated lead levels in drinking fountains in Florida’s Capitol.

The same scientists, professors and activists who found elevated lead in a number of Leon County Schools in 2016 are now looking elsewhere. What they’ve found has them calling for beefed up preventative measures.

Of eight fountains tested in the Capitol, the group dubbed “Get the Lead Out” found half of them showed levels higher than one part per billion. One of those tested in the Senate office building was at 11 parts per billion. That’s under the federal government’s actionable level of 15 parts per billion.

Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network, wants the public to push for regulations that don’t imply any “safe” level of lead. Young spoke during a “Get The Lead Out” press conference to discuss a push for legislation.

Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSUNews
Bottles for collecting drinking water samples were distributed during a "Get the Lead Out" press conference Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

“We can’t accept this acceptable risk level stuff anymore,” Young said. “And there’s more acceptable risk levels for fish that we eat, and for swimming waters. Well those things are choices … but you have to drink water.”

Lead exposure is linked to a laundry list of neurological problems in developing minds, namely ADHD and behavioral issues. In adults it can lead to blood clots and hardening of the arteries. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants governments to take action when levels hit one part per billion.

FSU Professor Vincent Salters of Florida State University says filtering is the only way to eliminate lead from drinking water – rather than implementing flushing programs.

“In thirty minutes, you can build up that high level of lead level in the water again,” Salters said. “So the only way to get the lead out, is to filter.”

The group hopes to work with legislators on a bill in the coming session that would mandate the replacement of water fountains in all public elementary and middle schools, and to filter cafeteria taps. The group says altogether the project would cost $24 million.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.