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Sarasota County Schools Conducts Voluntary Water Testing

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Water testing

Throughout the fall, the Sarasota County school district proactively conducted tests to identify possible lead in drinking water above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended allowance of 15 parts per billion. The district began to test after lead was found in the drinking water in Flint, MI and in nearby school districts in Florida. Although there is not a mandate that requires schools to test for lead in the water, Sarasota County Schools believed it was important to take the initiative to identify any potential issues, especially given the age of some school buildings and water systems in the district.

Sarasota County Schools contracted with OHC Environmental Engineering to conduct the sampling and selected schools built before 1986, when using lead fixtures became prohibited in public water systems.

The first round of water testing took place in the following schools:

  • Alta Vista Elementary
  • Booker High School
  • Gocio Elementary
  • Sarasota High School
  • Triad Alternative School
  • Riverview High School
  • Garden Elementary
  • Southside Elementary
  • Wilkinson Elementary
  • Venice High School
  • Bay Haven Elementary
  • Fruitville Elementary
  • Ashton Elementary
  • Lakeview Elementary
  • Brentwood Elementary
  • McIntosh Middle School
  • Englewood Elementary
  • Venice Middle School
  • Glenallen Elementary

Preliminary results found three test sites with lead levels above the EPA recommendation, including McIntosh Middle School, Venice Middle School and Englewood Elementary School.

In both McIntosh and Venice middle schools, minute traces of lead were found in pot fillers – fixtures like a faucet used to fill large pots with water in school kitchens. The school district has removed these fixtures from use to minimize contact to staff and students and they are being replaced with new fixtures. At Englewood Elementary School, small traces of lead were found in drinking fountains in Building 6, which was already slated for demolition this summer. Water supply to all fountains in the building have been disabled and bottled water is now available for drinking purposes. The school district will begin construction of a replacement building over the next school year and students will be in portable classrooms until the construction of the new building is complete.

OHC is finalizing reports for many of the school sites. Should additional traces of lead be found in the water, Sarasota County Schools will move swiftly to remove contaminants. To date, there have been no reports of lead-poisoning illness by staff, students or visitors throughout the school district. Going forward, Sarasota County Schools will conduct an annual sampling of water systems and fixtures, including all drinking fountains, in all buildings constructed prior to 1986 to ensure the continued safety and well-being of its students, staff and visitors.


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