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Lead poisoning of school-aged children is unfortunately back in the spotlight, this time in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina area. Last year, 58 schools voluntarily tested the drinking water in local schools, and nearly half showed high lead levels. Results started posting earlier this week, reporting at least 27 schools had lead levels at the action-level 15 parts per billion (ppb) or greater. Some had lead levels as high as 100 ppb.
To put this in perspective, the Environmental Protection Agency states that there is no safe level of lead in water, which has been proven to cause health problems ranging from stomach aches to irreparable brain damage. At 5 ppb, many cities issue a "cause for concern" warning. At 15 ppb, the EPA dictates that the water system must undertake a number of action items to control corrosion, pursuant to the Safe Water Drinking Act. Two years ago, during the height of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, lead levels there were at 26 ppb. At 100 ppb, the lead level in the North Carolina school water is almost four times that of Flint, and over six times the actionable EPA level.
With schools about to re-open for the year, the district emphasized that the lead-contaminating culprits were plumbing fixtures, not the water supply itself. The schools have made some repairs and replacements, and claims many of the fixtures haven't been used for a while since they are in areas inaccessible to students. However, the district claims the study focused on points of consumption such as kitchen sinks, water fountains and ice machines, which seem to offer water frequently consumed by students.
For water outlets that still have high lead readings after fixture changes, the district will put up signs saying that the water isn't fit for consumption. It is assumed that Trillium Springs Montessori will have one of these signs, where there was a reading of 430 ppb on the first lead test, though it did drop to 100 ppb after the line was flushed. Perhaps six times the EPA warning level at a pre-school earns some warning signs.
If you are concerned that there are high levels of lead in your water, or in the water your children consume at school, contact a consumer protection lawyer in your area, who will listen to the facts or your case, and help you get the best possible outcome.
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