Report: Tampa, St. Pete cheated tests results

Posted at 5:25 AM, Jun 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-03 05:54:17-04

"I'm a restaurant owner, I know about cooking, I'm not a geologist," Costa Waez.

Waez, owner of Acpolois in Ybor City says without city water, his family business wouldn't exist.

"We use it for cooking, for tea, for coffee, for everything else without any second thought," said Waez.

That is until Thursday. A new investigation by the Guardian newspaper accuses Tampa,  St. Pete and 33 other cities of cheating on water tests to produce lower lead numbers.

Environmental Engineer Dr. Jeff Cunningham says the EPA warned communities against practices like pre-flushing water pipes or running water slowly during a lead test. That releases much less lead from the pipe, producing lower lead content numbers.

Something the guardian says happened in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

"If our water supply does have appreciative levels of lead in it and we're not detecting that because of the way the samples are being taken, then it’s potentially a health risk," said Cunningham.

Leaving more and more folks thinking about what they're drinking.

"You normally think you pour the water, its good, but since the incidents that have been happening, it does come to your mind a little bit," said Chet Thomas.

"It probably does more and we probably should be more aware of it." Said Holly Thomas.

It also has business owners like Waez, counting on city leaders to flush out the problem.

"If we don't trust them, we can't do business,” said Waez. “We should trust them because our lives are in their hands."

Results of the City's latest water quality testing reaffirm that St. Pete's water is safe, and lead levels are well 
within federal regulatory requirements.
In accordance with EPA requirements, the City's Water Resources department conducts water quality testing every three years. Five or more samples of the 50 samples tested (90% percentile) cannot exceed the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). The latest testing in 2014 showed that only one sample exceeded the action level.
Water Resources performed additional water quality assurance testing in early 2016, which included additional homes built pre-1950s to the 1980s. The department sent out more than 850 requests for participation in the testing, though only 86 accepted the request. Of the 86 participants, one home (at 18 parts per billion) was over the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Retesting of the home at a later date showed the level was reduced to 5.0 ppb. Two other homes (one at 1.6 ppb and 1.7 ppb) were just above the detection limit of 1.5 ppb.
In addition to the early 2016 tests, Water Resources has added lead analysis to their monthly water quality monitoring at 20 sites around St. Pete.
Residents can read more about lead education and tips for lead safety, as well as the latest water quality report, at