NBC4 Investigates: Danger in the drinking water at the Ohio Statehouse

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — An NBC4 Investigation finds lead in drinking water at the Ohio Statehouse, triggering order for comprehensive testing of all water fountains.

In the early morning on Monday March 28, NBC4 began to collect water from the drinking fountains at the state’s most historic and important public building.

The reason is as clear as the echoes in the hallways at the statehouse. Thousands of children tour the statehouse each year.

NBC4 filled lab-approved containers with water at three of the drinking fountains and brought them to Advanced Analytical Labs for rigorous testing.

In just four days, the results came back. Water from two of the drinking fountains revealed no detectable levels of lead.

But a water sample from the third fountain, located in the hallway of the first floor at the Senate Office Building, which connects to the old capitol building through the atrium, revealed a dangerous level of lead: 25 parts per billion.

Click here for lead test #1

That’s nearly double the 15 parts per billion action level set by the EPA.

Matt Batka, a supervisor for wet chemistry and metals at Advanced Analytics Labs, stood by the results, telling NBC4 the tests were conducted according to “what EPA scientific methodology says to do.”

But Batka wanted to make sure the high lead result wasn’t an anomaly, telling NBC4 he wanted to be sure, “That you really do have that much lead coming through the line.”

So, last Tuesday, April 5, we went back to collect more samples from that drinking fountain that tested high for lead and from two other fountains that are located near it.

On Friday, April 8, the test results showed the same fountain tested high for lead again. This time, the lead count was 23.8 parts per billion.

Click here for lead test #2

The results, Batka said, showed there was a clear problem with lead in the water.

Within minutes of the getting the numbers, NBC4 contacted Luke Stedke with Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB), which takes care of statehouse operations.

As we explained our results, Stedke quickly digested the information, saying, “It’s a public issue, absolutely.”

In a matter of moments, Stedke grabbed a bag, tape and  an “out of order” sign and sealed off the drinking fountain we discovered with dangerous water.

And Stedke promised more testing of all the drinking fountains at the statehouse.

“We’ll get our own people in here.  Do our own testing and try to figure out what’s going on,” Stedke told me, thanking NBC4 for what we uncovered.

“We want the information. We want to make sure that everyone who works or visits the statehouse is safe, so we appreciate it,” Stedke said, adding, “Thank you very much.”

After our interview on Friday, Stedke issued this statement to NBC4 Investigative reporter Duane Pohlman:

Duane,

Thank you, greatly, for the information, sir. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) is currently working to resolve this issue. CSRAB has taken the drinking fountain offline and is scheduling water tests for all Ohio Statehouse and Senate Building drinking fountains as we speak.

The health and safety of the people who work in and visit the Ohio Statehouse is of paramount importance to CSRAB. Please, give me a call if you have any questions.

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