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New Report Finds Excess Lead in Charlotte Schools' Drinking Water

Lead pipes and faucets can contaminate drinking water in schools. (@wdnesday/Twenty20)
Lead pipes and faucets can contaminate drinking water in schools. (@wdnesday/Twenty20)
March 29, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. – Researchers have found elevated levels of lead in the drinking water of schools in Charlotte.

Lead is highly toxic and impairs neurological function, especially in children. The report, conducted by researchers at the Environment America Research and Policy Center, found that 41 out of 89 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district had taps with lead exceeding 15 parts per billion, the Environmental Protection Agency's limit for lead in drinking water.

However, most medical and public-health experts say there is no safe level of lead for children. Drew Ball, director of the nonprofit organization Environment North Carolina, says this is a problem state officials and lawmakers can work together to fix.

"When we find lead in tap water, we can put filters on, we can replace piping, we can make that change to ensure that our children's health is safe," says Ball.

Many schools and preschools have water fountains, faucets or piping that contains lead, which can seep into the water supply.

There are no current regulations in place requiring schools in North Carolina to test for lead in their drinking water. Ball says the bipartisan House Bill 386 aims to change that.

"This really isn't a partisan issue," says Ball. “Republicans' and Democrats' children all go to school and drink the same water. And, at the end of the day, this is an issue that has been ignored for far too long. And that's why House Bill 386 begins to address that by requiring testing for lead."

The bill would also change the lead trigger level in drinking water to 5 parts per billion, and would create a fund for replacing lead pipes and faucets in schools.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC