Nearly a year and a half into performing its new water quality program, Leon County Schools is considering a change in what triggers corrective measures against lead.
Lead in drinking water is particularly damaging to children’s brains. That’s why parents raised concerns in 2016 when local scientists found elevated levels of lead in samples of school drinking water.
The Environmental Protection Agency sets its action level for lead at 15 parts per billion – which the district has used as its guideline, until now. Carl Green, environmental health and safety coordinator for LCS, says the district is proposing changing its action level to 10 parts per billion.
School Board member Rosanne Wood was part of a February meeting between district staff and the local scientists who performed the initial tests.
“I thought we sort of really came together in a way, instead of in an adversarial way, for the purpose of having squeaky clean water in our schools,” Wood said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Green says the district has installed three-stage water filtration systems in school kitchens, conducts bi-weekly flushing of pipes and is purchasing point-of-use filters for water fountains.
Dr. Don Axelrad, a Florida A&M professor who conducted some of the initial tests, commends the district’s efforts but says an action level should be even lower than 10 parts per billion.
“Fifteen parts per billion was never meant to protect public health, and ten parts per billion is arbitrary in regards to public health as well,” Axelrad said. “We can do better, and I think Leon County Schools, if we were to discuss it, would come to the same conclusion.”
The district’s last batch of tests looked at 86 fixtures, only one of which was higher than 10 at 11 parts per billion. In the spring, Green says the district will focus on its pre-kindergarten through second grade classrooms.