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3 Greater Cincinnati child care centers part of pilot project to reduce lead in water

Posted: 1:15 PM, Jun 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-25 17:15:45Z

CINCINNATI -- Three child care centers serving nearly 300 kids in Greater Cincinnati were part of a pilot project to reduce lead in their drinking water.

One of them even had its lead service line, the pipe running from the street to the building, replaced because of what testers found.

Environmental Defense Fund released its report on the pilot project Monday. The organization partnered with Greater Cincinnati Water Works and agencies in three other states -- Illinois, Michigan and Mississippi -- to do water testing at centers that serve primarily low-income children.

There is no federal requirement for testing lead in water at child care facilities, but several states -- Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington -- all have developed regulations. So has New York City.

Ohio has not.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works got kudos for its "robust" program that aims to eliminate the 27,000 lead pipes remaining in the city's water system over the next 15 years -- with specific guidance for child care facilities and schools.

A review by Greater Cincinnati Water Works two years ago found that many of the city's public schools tested positive for some amount of lead, but mostly below the maximum acceptable levels.

"At the end of the day, removing lead lines will help ensure the safety and growth of our city, and it just comes down to: it’s the right thing to do," Water Works Director Cathy Bailey said.

Sherry Daniels, owner of Auntie's Kids Learning Center in Mount Healthy, said she knew to check for lead paint but not lead in the water.

"These are other people's kids in my care, and I want to make sure the water is safe for them to drink," Daniels said in a news release detailing the report.

Overall, local partners tested more than 1,500 water samples. That led to replacing 26 of 294 fixtures, or about 9 percent of fixtures. 

The Greater Cincinnati service line was one of two replaced through the project; another was in Chicago. Lead service lines contribute 50 to 75 percent of lead in drinking water where they exist.

More than 75 percent water samples had lead levels below 1 parts per billion, but seven of the 11 facilities had at least one drinking water sample above Environmental Defense Fund's health-based benchmark for action of 3.8 ppb. Two of these facilities had at least one sample above 80 ppb of lead -- 16 times higher than the lead level allowed in bottled water. 

Two key recommendations from the pilot project:

  • Replace lead service lines in child care facilities, using a review of historical records and visual inspection
  • Require testing for lead in water in child care facilities to identify sources of lead.

See the report for a full list of recommendations.