A recent article posted on al.com (using data information from a vox.com report) is a perfect example of the type of "misleading and fear-mongering reporting" that is growing rampant in social media. The following is the City of Dothan's response to that article:
In light of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, this press release is a formal response from the City of Dothan regarding an article posted today on al.com titled “Report: Two Alabama counties among highest lead poisonings in the country.” By using data compiled by vox.com, the article states that Houston County has the highest reported level of lead poisoning in the country, with seven of 12 children tested in Houston County in 2014 having lead levels high enough to qualify as lead poisoning.
First and foremost, the City of Dothan would like to acknowledge that this report does not clarify the suspected source of lead poisoning. Therefore, we do not know if the source of the lead poisoning was from drinking water, private wells, copper plumbing, or older homes which usually contain lead based paint.
Furthermore, we vehemently question the validity of such a report considering that the sample sized used was relatively small. As reported by Lance Griffin with the Dothan Eagle, there were approximately 25,557 individuals under the age of 18 in Houston County when the samples were taken, with 7 of 12 testing positive. As is commonly stated in public administration books such as “Statistical Epidemiology” by Graham R. Law and Shane W. Pascoe, “the size of the sample determines the level of sampling error in the data.” Simply put, statistical power is strengthened and sampling error is lessened by simply increasing the overall sample size, which this study fails to do.
In supporting our belief in transparency and producing statistically sound information, the City of Dothan produces an annual “Drinking Water Quality Report.” Instead of focusing on a small sample size, this annual report is based on findings from all of our 34 wells, which have a 32 million gallons per day capacity, and from the averaged 11.7 million gallons of water per day provided by the Dothan Water System. Therefore, our 2015 study concludes that approximately 4.3 billion gallons of water were pumped, prepared and safely distributed to our citizens in 2014.
Based upon the findings of our water quality monitoring report, Dothan’s drinking water meets or exceeds the federal and state requirements for drinking water quality standards. The most recent report can be found on the City of Dothan’s website at http://www.dothan.org/DocumentCenter/View/2472.