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After Flint, St. Petersburg mulls more tests for lead in water supply

ST. PETERSBURG — Despite assurances from St. Petersburg's top water official that the city's drinking supply is safe, City Council members said Thursday that more testing should be done to ease the minds of worried residents.

The specter of lead contamination in Flint, Mich. — which has raised concerns nationally about the overall quality in drinking water — haunted a 23-minute presentation by Water Resources director Steve Leavitt.

Closer to home, a small band of residents who live near Sawgrass Lake and the Skyway Gun Club have claimed that lead from the gun club's bullets poses a threat to the city's water supply because a water main runs through the club's drop zone.

There is no evidence to back up those claims, Leavitt said. Test results near the gun club and random samples taken throughout the city showed levels that were considered acceptable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Leavitt said.

Referencing the Flint scandal, Leavitt said he welcomed the opportunity to "reassure" St. Petersburg that the city has nothing to fear about lead poisoning its water supply.

"Our water is safe," Leavitt said. "Safe for children, safe for adults."

Only two houses tested since 2003 showed lead levels above federal standards, and one of those houses tested normally a few months later, he said.

The city tests 50 homes scattered across the city every three years. The last test was in 2014. The next is scheduled for 2017.

Council member Karl Nurse asked the city to consider testing homes that were built from the 1920s to 1970s, which make up most of the city's housing stock. Per federal rules, the city only tests homes built between 1982 and 1989, Leavitt said.

Council member Jim Kennedy said he was willing to spend more money to test this year.

"I look at that as a cost for peace of mind with what's going on nationally," Kennedy said, also mentioning the "unsubstantiated allegations" of lead danger for city residents near the gun club.

Leavitt said he would look into conducting more tests.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

After Flint, St. Petersburg mulls more tests for lead in water supply 02/11/16 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016 8:53pm]
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