CHARLESTON — State health officials are encouraging Clarksburg water customers to have children age 6 and under tested for lead poisoning.

The warning from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources comes a week after state testing found some children with elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream.

On Friday, DHHR officials announced they are combining forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection to assist the Clarksburg Water System in their efforts to identify and test older homes with lead service lines that may cause elevated lead levels in drinking water.

Dr. Ayne Amjad, state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, urges residents who live in homes built prior to 1950 to use bottled water and have their children tested for lead poisoning.

“Working together with our federal partner, the Environmental Protection Agency, we will assure safe drinking water for the residents of Clarksburg. Additionally, the state is committing funding toward lab analysis of water samples for lead content,” she said in a press release.

The issue of lead water lines was first identified by staff in the Bureau for Public Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program during environmental lead assessments conducted in the homes of children diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels.

Tests of the water samples from several homes served by the Clarksburg Water System were above the EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion.

The Clarksburg Water System is implementing a corrective action plan that will include additional sampling and increased frequency of monitoring. The water department will also install a corrosion control system and an alternate source of drinking water and/or point of use filters for homeowners where elevated lead levels are known from existing sample results and where known or suspected lead service lines exist.

“EPA is committed to address lead in the nation’s drinking water to ensure communities like Clarksburg are protected,” said Acting EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Diana Esher. “Addressing lead in drinking water requires partnerships, and EPA is dedicated to working with West Virginia to improve public health.”

Parents of children younger than age six who are living in older homes served by the Clarksburg Water System should discuss the risks of lead exposure with their child’s pediatrician to determine if precautionary blood lead testing is needed.

Additional steps all consumers can take include flushing water lines used for drinking and cooking and using bottled water for making baby formula. Boiling water does not remove lead from water.

Studies have shown that exposure to lead can harm a child’s health in various ways, including causing brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior and hearing and speech problems.

Questions regarding the Clarksburg Water System and the risk for lead exposure in the water should be directed to Bob Davis, Clarksburg Water System Chief Water Operator, at 304-624-5467, extension 121.

Reach Eric Cravey at 304-367-2523.

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