On the other side of the country, in Texas, a city is struggling to cope with a surge in lead poisoning, which is a result of a lead-based paint that residents used to paint the city’s homes.
More than 2,000 children have tested positive, and nearly 1,000 have died, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
And a new study has found that in a few communities, lead exposure can have severe long-term consequences.
NPR’s Robert Siegel speaks with health officials in Houston, Texas.
ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: This is NPR’s science desk.
We’re going to take a look at the water supply.
And, Robert, it’s been a tough week for Houston, where the city is trying to find answers to the health crisis, which has seen more than 1,600 children tested and thousands of residents suffering.
HARRIS: In this case, the water comes from the city of New Braunfels.
It’s a city of 2 million, and about half of it is treated with tap water.
And as a result, there’s a lot of lead in New Braunfs water, as well as a lot more lead in the city.
And the lead levels are now higher than in Flint, Michigan, where lead-contaminated water became the national story after a devastating switchover.
The city has been working on its water for years.
Its leaders say that’s why the city started getting the lead testing.
But even with the testing, many residents still have no idea how much lead they have, and there are still many who are living with the effects of lead poisoning.
ERIC BOGEL, FOUNDER AND CREATOR OF BUDGETFIGHT.COM: It’s so important to make sure that everybody is treated and treated right, and that everybody has access to the water, that they are able to have a healthy life.
SIEGE: In New Braunfen, the lead problem is especially acute, with about half the residents tested positive for elevated levels of lead, which can lead to developmental problems and even mental retardation.
That’s why health officials have been working to find solutions to the problem.
NPR health and science correspondent Robert Sessler is with us from Houston.
Thank you for being with us.
SINGLE MOMENT: Thank you.
BROUSSARD: The state’s water is being tested at least once a day, at least in some places, to help prevent problems.
And some people say the testing has made some of their neighbors uncomfortable.
NPR is not using the name of the local authority that oversees water in New Brunfels, and we’re using the city-owned water system.
But we will say that the city has had some problems.
It has had problems with lead pipes, lead paint in some homes, lead poisoning in some kids.
And in one neighborhood, where it’s not even a problem for children, there is a high concentration of lead.
That led to a lot, if not most, of the city having a lead problem.
So there’s been some concern about how that has been handled in the past.
SIEMENS: The mayor of New Brunfen, Mike Brunsard, says that the water testing in the last two weeks has made him nervous.
But the problem, he says, is the testing is going on in such a way that it’s difficult for anyone to tell whether their water is safe.
MICHELLE BRUSSON: I feel really uncomfortable.
I feel like my home is unsafe.
I don’t want my kids in it.
And I want them to know that it is safe, because it’s our water.
SIECE: That’s Melissa Brunsson.
She’s the mayor of the town of New Brunswick, New Brunswick.
It was her hometown.
And it’s where a recent outbreak of lead contamination was found.
The town has been under a water advisory since late July.
But in recent days, Melissa says the city, including the water district that runs it, has not done enough to improve its water quality.
SIEWS: And, we are the city in New Brunswick that has a problem, and not everyone is saying the same thing.
And we have a problem in the community.
BRUSON: So, I think, the concern that some people have, I guess, is that because they live in the same house, they don’t have to worry about what’s going on, and so we’re not seeing any problems that we were seeing before.
SIETENBERG: And there’s also a question about how much that lead is, because we’ve heard it can be deadly for babies.
SIEL: But Melissa says there’s no data on how many babies have died because of lead exposure, or how many have died from lead poisoning overall.
BROSTSARD: We don’t know that