Bill would require public schools to monitor drinking water

Leon County Schools, water fountain.
Photo Submitted by Jakeira Gilbert.

Florida legislators are aiming to mandate cleaner water systems in public schools through a recently introduced bill in the Senate.

The proposal, SB 66, was introduced by Senators Janet Cruz, Lauren Book and Annette Taddeo. SB-66 would require school districts in Florida to locate and label “all drinking water sources” with a barcode, and “…to install filters that meet certain specifications on all such sources.”

The bill specifically wants to put filters on campuses built before 1986.

When discussing the effects that lead exposure can have for adults and children, Don Axelrad, environmental health professor at FAMU and lead testing and filtering advocate said, “Any level causes harm and higher exposure causes more harm.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common health problems from exposure includes anemia and abdominal pain, but long-term exposure can create behavior problems and learning disabilities in young children.

In 2016, more than 15 elementary schools in Leon County had alarming amounts of lead-contaminated water sources, including Chaires Elementary School, Kate Sullivan Elementary School and W.T. Moore Elementary School. Although there has been regular testing in the Leon County School District since then, nearly three years later, parents are still concerned and are waiting for SB-66 to be approved and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Imani Evora, parent of a student who attends W.T. Moore, thinks that the bill is a good idea and looks forward to the change.

“As a parent, it is my primary duty to protect my daughter. At home we make a habit to drink filtered water, so having the same option supplied at school will contribute to the wellness of our children. Water consumes over 65 percent of children’s bodies, serving as a top source for building their immune systems.”

Thomeca Glover, parent of a second-grader at Kate Sullivan, said that she’s had several discussions with her daughter and other family members about taking precautions when drinking from school water fountains, and that she’s in full support of the bill.

“I think that this bill is important because my child does not need to drink water that contains lead and harmful items,” she said.

If passed, the bill would take effect July 1.