TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District has found lead in the water at 21 schools over the last year, it announced Tuesday.
The district said it has replaced the plumbing components that could be responsible for the contamination.
Only 50 schools have been tested, and within them, more than 1,700 faucets, drinking fountains and fixtures, according to electronic communications that the district sent to parents and employees Tuesday.
"We will continue testing the drinking water sources in our schools for lead until we have checked all 270 facilities in our district," said Tuesday's mass email to parents and staff.
The district issued the notices days after a team of reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, working on an upcoming story, began visiting school employees to share some of the test results and to ask whether they had been notified about the lead findings.
Tuesday's letter also directs readers to the district's website, which now contains details of the water test results.
Testing water for lead is voluntary by school districts but has been recommended by environmental officials. Several states have passed laws requiring schools to test, and the issue has received a larger amount of attention since the public water crisis in Flint, Mich., of 2015.
Medical experts say that even small amounts of lead, when consumed by young children, can cause difficulty in learning and behavior, along with a wide range of medical problems.
The highest results were in sinks at Smith Middle School and Mitchell Elementary, both of which measured at over 215 parts per billion. The next highest result was King Middle. The district said it replaced faucets and fixtures any time the level of lead in the water exceed 15 parts per billion.
"We're being proactive," said Grayson Kamm, the district's communications and media officer.
Lead is most often an issue in older buildings. The average age of Hillsborough schools is just under 50 years, according to the district.
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