Search for lead in the water at the Statehouse continues

Danger in the Drinking Water Follow Up

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A month after NBC4’s Lead Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman found lead in the water at a drinking fountain at the Ohio Statehouse, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) is still unsure what caused that fountain and another to spew water filled with elevated levels of lead.

Parts and Pieces

In a room tucked in a corner of the basement of the Ohio Statehouse, parts and pieces of two copper drinking fountains that hung on the walls of the Senate Building are strewn across a work bench.

“We’re just trying to get to the bottom of it,” noted Luke Stedke, CSRAB Deputy Director of Communications and Marketing

The fountains are relatively new, hung during the Capitol renovations during the mid-90s and the parts reflect that. Plastic lines, brass fittings and aluminum mesh are the inner workings of these fountains, with no sign of lead in the mix.

It’s fairly clear the faucets themselves are not contributing to the dangerous levels of lead an NBC4 Investigation uncovered, confirmed by CSARB in separate tests, which showed elevated lead levels at the drinking fountain on the first floor of the Senate Building, where we discovered lead and at another drinking fountain just one floor above.

NBC4’s Investigation, “Dangers in the Drinking Water”

The Health Threat

According to the Centers for Disease Control, high levels of lead are a major health threat, especially for children.

CDC “Lead Poisoning: What to Know, A to Z”

The CDC lays out the threat to growing Children’s brains:

  • Slow down growth and development
  • Damage hearing and speech
  • Cause behavior problems
  • Make it hard to pay attention and learn

Out of Service

Where the two fountains once attached to the wall, there are now signs that read, “Out of Service.”

Under the signs are holes that allowed us to peer in to the inner workings of the historic structure.

Using a light on an iPhone, we documented what’s behind the walls.

The plumbing that once fed water to the fountains is old, made of thick copper.  But as we zoomed closer, we could clearly see the thick solder that holds those pipes together.

Before a federal ban in 1986, much of the solder like this was lead, or comprised of a large portion of lead. In this old structure, Stedke conceded that solder could very well be the source of the problem.

“That’s entirely possible,” Stedke said, reacting to the possibility of lead in the solder, adding, “That’s why we’re trying to figure it out.”

Until CSARB does figure it out, the two drinking fountains will remain off the wall and out service, perhaps for good.

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