Lead scare at hospital traced to construction project

By Kara Driscoll, originally posted on November 6, 2016


The possible threat of tainted drinking water was highlighted earlier this year when elevated lead levels were found in part of the water supply at Miami Valley Hospital.

In late June, water samples at the hospital tested five to 10 times above the Environmental Protection Agency’s guideline for lead amounts. The Dayton Daily News first reported the hospital found elevated lead levels in the southeast addition of the campus.

Upon further testing, two more buildings — the Berry Women’s Center and the Fred E. Weber Center for Health Education — were identified as having elevated levels as well.

Sediment from Dayton’s water supply caused lead contamination in Miami Valley Hospital’s water for a short amount of time, hospital officials concluded from their own investigation. They hired renowned water experts Marc Edwards and Tim Keane to find the root of the high levels of lead.

No children or adults who were tested were found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

A road construction project on Warren and Brown streets near the hospital likely disturbed the sediment, officials said. The federal guidelines state lead levels must be under 15 parts per billion, and the water samples at the hospital tested within the range of 15 to 220 parts per billion.

Edwards, who exposed the massive lead water contamination in Flint, Mich., said more testing would be needed to pinpoint the exact cause of the “very high” levels of lead in the hospital water supply.

“What happened at that hospital is a mystery the likes of which I have never seen before,” he said. “There’s every indication it came from outside the hospital. Now, we did not have access — we were not able to get access to the samples that the utility has.”

He said the only reason the lead was found is because the hospital is required to test for lead and copper. The hospital is required to sample its water in the southeast addition every six months. The hospital met the current requirement for 2016, and will test again sometime in the first six months of 2017.

Officials said the valve connecting the hospital’s water supply to the main on Warren Street remains closed.

Michael Powell, the director of the city’s water department, said lead levels continue to test within acceptable ranges near the hospital.

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