City testing confirms high lead levels in water inside city buildings

City testing of water at Houston City Hall and the City Hall Annex confirm high levels of lead in one-third of the drinking fountains tested last week.

HOUSTON - City testing of water at Houston City Hall and the City Hall Annex confirms high levels of lead in one-third of the drinking fountains tested last week.

The testing came after KHOU 11 Investigates raised questions about lead levels in the water in city buildings.

On Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced two of 11 samples taken from inside City Hall and five of nine water samples collected from the City Hall Annex had lead levels that exceeded federal limits.

City council member Brenda Stardig called the findings “unsettling” and called for accountability.

“We go out as a health department, and we go and hammer the restaurants for these minor violations, but yet we’ve got major (problems) here, in-house,” Stardig said.

Test results obtained by KHOU 11 Investigates later in the day show two of the water samples exceeded the EPA’s acceptable lead limit by 17 times and nearly 30 times, respectively.

Mayor Turner described the water fountains as not regularly used and said he does not believe the problem exists in the plumbing throughout the buildings.

“What I will say to you is when you do not engage in maintenance, old facilities will start falling apart,” Turner told the council.

The mayor pledged to expand water testing to other city buildings and to set up a system to routinely monitor for problems.

“We certainly need to know if there are any health hazards to employees or to visitors to any of our buildings,” Turner said.

In adults, lead exposure has been linked to increased blood pressure, a drop in kidney function and reproductive problems. In pregnant woman experts have linked lead to premature birth and miscarriage.

But at a news conference Wednesday, Turner doubted the risk to the 630 employees working in the two downtown buildings affected.

“We do not believe that the levels were serious enough to cause any physical health problems,” Turner said. “But again, always on a cautionary note, if they have any concerns I would recommend they check with their doctor.”

Doctors say different people may have different reactions to lead depending on the amount they’re exposed to and length of time it occurs.

Generally, though, children are more susceptible to lead exposure than adults.

(© 2016 KHOU)


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