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Florida Schools are not Testing the Safety of Drinking Water

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Satellite Beach, Florida, July 2, 2019

The non-profit organization Fight for Zero asked sixty-seven school districts and forty- two public colleges and universities across Florida for the results of their most recent water safety tests. Some of the responses were troubling.

Thirty-four school districts redirected the request to local municipalities because those districts do not test the safety of the water they provide to students, faculty and staff.

Twenty-five school districts and colleges provided test results for coliform/E Coli. (According to the EPA, coliform/E Coli is particularly harmful to children and could cause permanent kidney damage.) And there are problems. For example, pond water at North Florida Community College, tested positive for dangerously high levels for E. Coli. 

A few Florida schools are still on well water which is not always treated or tested by county or municipal water systems because, in many instances, federal law does not mandate testing of wells.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, for children there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Despite national media attention on water-born lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan and specific instances of drinking water lead contamination in Florida schools (Hillsborough; Polk; Okaloosa; Monroe, and; DeSoto Counties) only twenty-two schools out of the one-hundred-nine school districts or public colleges and universities in Florida tested for lead in drinking water being given to students.

Lead-tainted drinking water isn’t the only danger. There are contaminants of emerging concern which may cause long-term potential risk to human health or the environment such as polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). PFAS is commonly used in fire-fighting foams. Out of six colleges that have fire training facilities on campus, only one, Chipola College, tested for the PFAS in January 31, 2019 and reported no detection.

According to the EPA, polluted groundwater can reach drinking water systems and pose serious public health threats, particularly to children, adolescents and young adults.

Preventative steps, however, are cost-effective. For instance, in 2019, the Leon County School District did a water-filter-installation cost analysis for all of their schools drinking fountains and bubblers. The study estimated the cost to ensure the safety of drinking water for children was only $122,625 against the District’s annual budget of $263,600,197.

Some Florida school districts don’t appear to be worried about the safety of drinking

water, though. The School District of Okeechobee County haven’t tested in decades.

Their most recent drinking water report was done in 1991. Out the one-hundred-nine requests made by Fight for Zero on February 27, 2019, Broward County School District, Citrus County School District, and Fort Myers Technical College failed even to respond as required by Florida’s Public Records Act.

Here are all the test results sent from each school district, college and university.

Fight For Zero Inc.

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