Boston’s Water Plagued with Lead Problem

-By, Sindhu Krishnamurthy

The water you drink contains small amounts of substances that are normally harmless. However, when water supplies have large quantities of toxic substances such as lead, it can be incredibly dangerous to your health.

For instance, many of you may have heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the town temporarily switched its water source from the Detroit Water Authority to the Flint River. The following year, Lee Anne Walters, a resident of Flint, was found to have lead levels in her house almost 7 times the amount of lead allowed in water by the Environmental Protection Agency. Her son was later diagnosed with lead poisoning and ADHD. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality assured the citizens that it was merely a random incident; however, following investigations revealed that Flint’s water had seriously high lead levels that could lead to serious illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization, high levels of lead in the blood can result in “learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation,” the risk for which is compounded in developing young children. The percentage of children in Flint under 6 years old who had high blood lead levels nearly doubled after Flint switched water sources. As a result, Michigan has been working to provide bottled water and water filters to the citizens, while the federal government has helped with medical coverage. However, lead in water remains an issue in cities across the US, even here in Boston.

In fact, just this summer, heightened lead levels were found in six Boston Public Schools: Boston Latin School, Patrick Lyndon K-8 School, Lee Academy School, Josiah Quincy Elementary School, F. Lyman Winship Elementary School, and Jeremiah E. Burke High School/Dearborn STEM Academy. All water fountains in these schools have been turned off and substituted with bottled water coolers. The Water Access Policy now requires annual water testing of sources for “drinking, food preparation, or medical services” in the school district.

Winsor also performs water testing. Mr. Crompton, the Director of Construction and Campus Projects, explains that the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority services our water and sources the water from the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts. Winsor performs an annual test on its water to make sure that it meets the required levels. The school has three main pipes that are inspected annually: one in the LOC and two in the main building. The last time Winsor’s water was tested was May of this year, and the lead levels were found to be well within state requirements. Mr. Crompton states that Winsor will continue to test its water and stay on the right side of the regulations. Hopefully, America’s cities and schools will understand the importance of this issue and also take preventative measures to protect their water.