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Posted 8/19/06

Schoolchildren benefit from Utah dealer’s ongoing POU treatment donation

Five years ago, nine-year old Travis Lambourne didn’t know why the water from his classroom drinking fountain tasted badly, but he did know where to go for help.

His family owns Superior Water & Air, a West Valley City, Utah water treatment dealer. His grandfather, Jake Lambourne, started the company 50 years ago; his father, Mark Lambourne, is vice president.

Travis said the water from his classroom fountain looked and tasted awful, and he asked his dad if he could do anything about it. Lambourne told his son he would. He installed a lead-rated carbon filter on the drinking fountain in his son’s classroom.

With the fountain dispensing better-tasting water that was no longer orange, it didn’t take long for other teachers in the school to start asking for the same treatment in their rooms. Soon, every classroom and hallway fountain was done.

To say that the project grew would be an understatement.

Not long afterward, Lambourne read about lead problems in the Washington, DC-area, after the district switched from chlorine to chloramines disinfection. The process had leached lead into the drinking water. As a result, the most vulnerable members of the population — including schoolchildren — were affected. Lead exposure can cause learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height, poor hearing and a host of other problems in young children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lambourne says he thought about how lead had been reported at levels 10 times higher than the maximum contaminant level — even though it had been previously reported as safe — and how poisoning could affect kids’ test scores. He also thought about his own two children, and said he wanted to find a way to help.

Lambourne met with his father and Rob Anderson, Superior Water & Air’s general manager. He told them about the problems in Washington DC, and what he had done at his own kids’ school. He asked if they could find a way to do that for all the schools in the state. Could it be done for free — at no cost to the taxpayers or schools — as a sort of thank you for Superior’s 50 years in business?

"When Mark told me about the idea, at first, I thought he was crazy. I thought about the cost," said Anderson.

But the group continued to develop a plan. Anderson told people from the Salt Lake City CBS affiliate about the idea, and the station jumped at the chance to help. KUTV offered to be Superior’s media partner, and volunteered time and resources to produce public service announcements. KUTV was also instrumental in setting up a meeting with then-Governor Olene Walker, whose platform was education.

She made sure Dr. Darrell White, deputy for education, was present for the meeting. They embraced the idea and consequently Superior was put on the agenda for an upcoming meeting of all 40 public school superintendents. Anderson made the pitch to the superintendents, and as Lambourne says, it was a 'home run.' After the meeting, Anderson said every one of the superintendents came up to him, wanting their district to be first.

Today, thousands of Utah schoolchildren are benefiting from what’s evolved into the Safe Drinking Water for Utah Kids foundation, an ongoing effort that will continue to replace the filters year after year. As of July 2006, 13,000 filters have been put into use. Approximately, 9,000 of those are original installations. That means about 9,000 more need to be done.

"It’s a big job," Lambourne said. "We continue to do new installs, but as filters are due for replacement, we stop installing and start the replacement process. Once those are done, we go back to installs."

"We have a new, five-person department devoted to the Safe Water for Utah Kids program.


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