A&M researcher finds lead in drinking water along Houston Ship Channel

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - A Texas A&M University research team has found lead in the water along the Houston Ship Channel.

Garett Sansom is a research assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University. He led this study along with researchers from the Texas A&M College of Architecture and College of Geosciences.

"This happened in response, as the nation woke up to the fact that there might be lead in the water after Flint, Michigan," said Sansom on First News at Four. He says community partners along the Houston Ship Channel expressed concern that they might be facing a similar issue.

What Sansom and his team found is that yes, the Houston Ship Channel is contaminated with lead, though not to "actionable" levels.

"The maximum lead levels you want to be in drinking water is zero," said Sansom, citing environmental and health professionals. "But the 'action' level is 15 parts per billion, and that's when it frees up the ability to go in and make major changes."

The lead levels in the Houston Ship Channel are somewhere in the middle.

"So it's not enough to free up these communities to go in and make changes," said Sansom.

In the Brazos Valley, Sansom says there is no indication that the water is contaminated. However, it does reveal that communities across the nation might have lead in their water, says Sansom.

"By some estimates, there are hundreds of communities across the nation that are going through this," said Sansom. "Finding that the water isn't quite as clean as they'd like."

Sansom says it's both a purification and infrastructure issue. Moving forward, testing will continue to find out how big the problem is.

"But ultimately, we need something akin to the Lead Abatement Program, where we free up state or federal dollars to actually go in and change the piping and infrastructure of some of these older homes to protect the public health," said Sansom.

For the full conversation with Sansom, see the video player above. For the full article on the Sansom's study, see the Related Links.