·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

Lead Found in Cincinnati Health Clinic Water Supply

— July 10, 2024

The Cincinnati Health Department has found high lead levels at the Bobbie Sterne Health Center.

The Bobbie Sterne Health Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a healthcare facility offering essential medical services to the city’s low-income residents. The center was named after Bobbie Sterne, a well-known politician and public health advocate, and since its inception at the turn of the 20th century, the center has served as a much-need refuge for thousands of men, women, and children who rely on its services each year. That’s why it’s especially concerning that recent testing has found alarmingly high levels of lead in the facility’s tap water supply. The Cincinnati Health Department and Greater Cincinnati Water Works reported eight out of 55 tested water sources at the clinic showed lead concentrations in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) acceptable limits.

High concentrations of lead in drinking water, and in water used for cooking, showering, or any other daily tasks that could lead to consumption, can cause to a host of serious health issues, including neurological damage, behavioral issues, physical growth impairment, hearing and speech problems, anemia, pregnancy complications, miscarriage and stillbirths, developmental issues in utero, heart problems, kidney damage, reproductive complications, nervous system disorders, joint and muscle pain, digestive issues, immune system dysfunction, and bone deterioration.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), high levels exposure can also lead to coma, convulsions, and death, while even low levels have known to impact children’s long-term health, leading to permanent abnormalities in brain development, attention span, and behavior.

Lead Found in Cincinnati Health Clinic Water Supply
Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Cincinnati’s Health Department spokesperson Jose Marques confirmed that the contamination had not made it ways into the center’s drinking supply, stating, “The water sources [impacted] will not be in use while we work on remediation.” Anyone potentially impacted have been notified.

Ohio ranks second in the nation for the number of lead service lines in its infrastructure, and the toxin has been an ongoing problem for the older neighborhoods in Cincinnati as a result of the historical use of lead in extensively in construction, including in paint, plumbing, and other building materials. Although the use of lead for these purposes was put to a halt in the 1970s, historical sites, like the Bobbie Sterne Health Center can still contain the harmful substance.

The health department is considering whether to close the center for the time but hasn’t decided on doing so just yet. This would mean numerous residents would not be able to use its services until it reopens, leaving residents without essential resources.

In 2021, Cincinnati took significant steps to address lead contamination in its water supply, coming up with a plan to replace the city’s nearly 40,000 private lead lines. A $20 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been used to support this effort, and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) expressed its commitment to revitalize the state’s affected communities. To date, the project is still underway, and is projected to be completed in 2033.

The recent issues at the Cincinnati medical center underscore the pressing need to keep pushing the lead pipe replacement project forward to ensure the safety of the city’s residents. As long as the contaminant can still leach into its water supply, this will continue to spell danger for those who rely on it.


Lead detected in water at Cincinnati health clinic that serves city’s poor

Lead testing takes new urgency in Cincinnati

Target 2033: Cincinnati’s Program to Eliminate Lead Pipes

Join the conversation!