Agency says Fruitvale's source of elevated lead isn't water

- Because of Flint, Michigan, lead has become synonymous with water, but dangerous levels of lead found in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood are prompting local leaders to take immediate action. 

The Flint water crisis has been ongoing since 2014 when the city’s water source was switched by state government in order to save money. Researchers recently reported that the situation is improving, but that it’s best to stick with water filters.

Families in Fruitvale are now realizing just how vulnerable they are to being exposed to dangerous levels of lead after a report released this week by Reuters.

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) responded to the news report and says Fruitvale’s concerns are more about lead paint in homes and soil, but not from the city’s tap-water source.

According to the report, 7.57 percent of children tested in the 94601zip code have elevated levels of lead in their blood, which far exceeds the national average of 2.5 percent and the 5 percent of children exposed during the water crisis in Flint.

EBMUD says, “excessive testing shows that our water meets or surpasses all federal and state drinking water requirements, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule.”

The agency says they are supporting Alameda County in what they call a “public health concern” and will offer lead tap sampling at homes or businesses.

They also offered the following: “EBMUD removed all known lead service lines from the District’s service area in the 1990s and continues to remove lead materials whenever they are found.”

“There are 25,000 people in that zip code and this has the highest concentration of children in the whole city of Oakland so that’s my greatest concern,” said Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo.

Gallo lives in that zip code and says he’s received a tremendous amount of calls and emails from concerned neighbors questioning if their water is contaminated.

Industrial properties with contaminated soil and older homes with lead paint are the culprits.

What happens is children unknowingly play in that dirt and ingest that dust that falls from chipped lead paint, according to EBMUD and city leaders.

“It’s not safe at all for the kids. They’re my nieces and I don’t want them to take any lead. [I’m] concerned about their health especially because we live here in Fruitvale,” said Kimberly Orellana, a Fruitvale resident.
The question is how many homes and properties are out there?

“The info I received from the county…we know where they are. We are not serving the level of residential units we should be, but yet the children are there,” said Gallo.

Gallo says that’s why he’s demanding city, county and state leaders address this issue in the way of forthcoming communication with the public and continue testing lead levels in children and area homes.

“We made too many excuses from the fire issues, school issues to how my children are living. For me to hear that that many children are still testing with lead poisoning…that impacts your health forever. Either I pay for it now or I’m going to pay for it down the line,” said Gallo.

That Reuters report also found high levels of lead in East San Jose; 3.02 percent of the 500 children tested in the 95127 ZIP code had elevated lead levels in their blood.

Information and resources on lead poisoning are available online at www.achhd.org.

For questions or concerns regarding water quality, call EBMUD at 1-866-403-2683.

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