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  1. Opinion

Getting the lead out at Hillsborough schools | Editorial

SCOTT KEELER | Times Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, on the floor of the Florida Senate.
Published Jun. 21

Change can roll from the top, but sometimes it starts at the bottom. Case in point: A grass roots effort by Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, to clean lead from the drinking fountains at Hillsborough County's public schools.

A bill Cruz sponsored this legislative session would have required school districts to filter the drinking water at any school built before 1986. Lead is a common hazardous contaminant found in the plumbing of older homes, businesses and schools, entering the water supply through the corrosion of aging plumbing materials and posing harmful, long-lasting effects, particularly for children.

The legislation failed to move , so Cruz came home and started raising money to address the problem in Hillsborough. She estimates it will take about $250,000 to install filters on the water fixtures at 136 schools in Hillsborough built before 1986. School maintenance staff can install the filters, which would be swapped out annually. Cruz has already secured commitments totaling five figures.

This is what perseverance can accomplish. Citizens in the community are stepping up and filling the void from Tallahassee to meet a public health need. Cruz said she will outfit the Hillsborough schools this year and work again next year to secure state money for filters at more than 1,700 schools statewide built before 1986. Strong public support for the filters in Hillsborough could make a big statement next year in Tallahassee.

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