SPRINGFIELD, Missouri (KY3) – Some lawmakers in Missouri are working to eliminate dangerous levels of lead in school drinking water.
A bill in the Missouri House of Representatives would require schools to test their drinking water for toxic toxins and then mitigate the problem if dangerous levels are found. Such mitigations include replacing older systems and adding filters.
Lead can be harmful to anyone, but it is even less harmful to children.
“For children, it actually lowers their IQ levels,” said Jeff Pinson of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “That can lead to behavioral problems. All of this is at a fairly low level, and that can actually happen. There can be an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney or neurological problems in adults.”
Lead becomes a problem when it reaches levels of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter, Pinson said. After the Flint, Michigan water crisis, it used to be 5 micrograms per deciliter, he said. Before that, it was 12 micrograms per deciliter.
Lead can be found in water in three main ways, Pinson said.
“First, it could be lead in the water source,” he described. “It’s not a very big event in the state and the country, and it’s very, very low. Then you can also get the lead from the lead service line where the water sits in the lead service line for a long time, basically more than six hour, you can get higher lead levels out of it. And then also from the faucet. Basically, the faucet is not used for 6 hours or more, and then you have more lead oozing out of the fixture.”
Some schools have self-tested their water quality.
“I think some of them have tested some of the faucets in their schools and replaced some of the faucets, but a lot of them found it was just excessive stagnation,” Pinson said.
He said the problem can be solved by flushing the tap, which means a person turns on the tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before drinking or cooking with water. Pinson said the DNR sent a letter to schools across the state reminding them to do so after the summer.
“During the summer months, not many people actually use water in schools,” he said. “So the water was stagnant on this pipe for a long time. They needed to do a big flushing procedure before it started.”
While some schools may conduct their own testing, in many other cases the utility provider or the city will do so whenever the school or anyone else has concerns. EPA is also required to conduct mandatory lead testing every three years.
“We conduct thousands of tests throughout the system each year to make sure the water quality we have is safe and meets the guidelines of the EPA and other regulations,” said Joel Alexander of Springfield City Utilities. . “If there are any issues with residents or businesses or anything else, we want to know that.”
If customers have concerns, CU can run tests for them, Alexander said. He said Springfield doesn’t have any major issues with lead in drinking water. The same is true in the Ozarks.
“From 1991 to 1993, we replaced essentially every known leaded water service,” said Samatha Payne of the City of the Ozarks. “When we do a routine update, we go back and double check to make sure everything is in compliance. We haven’t had any issues with any lead-containing substances since 2014.”
Removing major service lines has been a big recent push, but problems often stem from systems within older buildings.
“For some older homes, especially in older areas, lead may still be present in the plumbing within the residence,” Alexander said.
That’s part of the reason why lawmakers aim to require schools to test, in case the system inside schools becomes stale.
EPA is also updating some policies to increase testing in schools.
“As we move toward that goal in the next year or so, we’re actually going to be doing more in-depth testing within schools,” Alexander said. “That’s not to say if we don’t need it now, we don’t do it. But in most cases when someone thinks there’s a problem that needs testing, we respond. Keeping schools safe is something we need to make sure we get done. . As we move towards these new guidelines, we will implement these processes and understand exactly what we need to do. But we are happy to do so.”
The bill will be heard again on April 4.
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