Spring 2021 Sustainability Fellows: Linda Beauport and Kimberly Watts
Partner: Florida Physicians for Social Responsibility
Project: Get the Lead Out! Educational Campaign and Public Health Lobbying Initiative
Students: Linda Beauport, fourth year undergraduate in Environmental Science and Policy; Kimberly Watts, first year graduate student in Public Health
In Spring 2021, Linda and Kimberly worked with Florida Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) to educate the public about lead in drinking water and spark legislative change through the Get the Lead Out! Campaign.
Linda joined the Sustainability Fellows program because she was excited to aid the community and improve the quality of the environment. As a graduate student in Public Health, Kimberly wanted to work with others to advocate for safe drinking water.
Together, Linda and Kimberly collaborated with Dr. Ron Saff and other members of the Florida PSR to address water quality issues in the local area. The group’s previous efforts in the Get the Lead Out! campaign revealed elevated levels of lead in schools and the Florida capital building. Linda and Kimberly were tasked with reenergizing the safe drinking water initiative by educating the public and lobbying for change.
Over the course of the semester, Linda and Kimberly worked within the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic to design a water quality testing protocol and gather field data. Linda and Kimberly selected water quality testing sites at 6 public areas frequented by children, then they conducted site visits to collect first-draw samples from January 29 to February 4. With the help of Dr. Saff, Linda and Kimberly sent the samples to Virigina Tech for analysis, finding elevated levels of lead in a Cascades Park drinking fountain.
“There was immediate action from the City of Tallahassee, and it was subsequently confirmed that the elevated lead level was approximately the same level that we reached,” said Dr. Saff.
As a result, leadership in the City of Tallahassee water utilities department has created a water quality working group, which includes stakeholders from Leon County Parks and Recreation Department, the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the Florida Department of Health.
“Before, we were dismissed by the City of Tallahassee water utility, and now we have their rapt attention,” said Dr. Saff. “I can’t express enough how much this project really did to recharge and reinvigorate the energy and attention to lead in drinking water. These ladies did a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful job.
For both Linda and Kimberly, the opportunity was a learning experience that they will take forward into their future careers.
“When you’re an undergrad, your main form of networking generally involves your TAs and professors,” said Linda. “I never would have thought that before graduating, I’d talk to a Florida senator’s legislative aide or people who are working in the administration of the health department or CDC. I’ve learned a lot more about communicating and working with professionals, which is something I’d love to do in the future.”
Kimberly said her experience being interviewed by television stations and connecting with different stakeholders helped her improve her public speaking skills.
“I’ve learned so much from this experience,” said Kimberly. “I’ve loved being involved in something that I can actually be passionate about. I work with kids, I want to protect those kids, and it’s really eye opening to see how much more education people need and how much more testing needs to be done.”
To view a WTXL Tallahassee video and article about Linda and Kimberly's project, visit wtxl.com.
To learn more about the Florida Physicians for Social Responsibility, visit psrflorida.org.
To learn more about the Sustainability Fellows program, visit sustainablecampus.fsu.edu/sustainability-fellows.