Quigley Re-introduces the “Get the Lead Out of Schools Act” to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Students
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) introduced the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act, a bill that requires the EPA to establish a lead contamination testing program for all schools and creates a grant program to help school districts conduct lead testing and assist with remediation efforts.
“Access to clean drinking water is a right, not a privilege, regardless of one’s socioeconomic status or zip code,” said Rep. Quigley. “That’s why I’m proud to join Congresswoman Lawrence in reintroducing the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act to ensure dangerous toxins don’t damage our students’ health and disrupt their education. Every step we take to raise awareness, improve consistency, and advance our lead testing programs will help make our classrooms safe.”
There is currently no federal law requiring the testing of drinking water in schools. Last July, Rep. Quigley released a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found only 43 percent of school districts nationwide tested for lead in their schools’ drinking water in 2016 and 2017, and of those that tested, 37 percent found elevated lead levels. GAO found that 41 percent of school districts did not test for lead, while 16 percent did not know.
According to the GAO report, Illinois is one of the eight states that require schools to test for lead in drinking water as of September 2017. In fact, school districts in Illinois have most recently completed a round of testing for lead in school drinking water between October 2016 and December 2017. Illinois requires public and private elementary schools constructed before 2000 to test their drinking water for lead (including all drinking water sources in each school) and does not mandate re-testing. Furthermore, if school districts find lead levels over 5 ppb, they are required to make the results available to families and have individual letters sent to families.
“Our children deserve to learn in a safe and healthy learning environment. However, too many of our children are faced with the threat of damaging and irreversible health problems caused by contaminated drinking water in their schools. This is simply unacceptable,” said Rep. Lawrence. “We must do all we can to prioritize clean, safe drinking water for the future of our nation, our children in America. I’m glad to join Congressman Quigley in reintroducing the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act to help address the water infrastructure crisis that is plaguing our communities.”
In 2016, Rep. Quigley introduced a comprehensive legislative approach to address the nationwide contaminated drinking water crisis by improving testing to keep potential contaminants like lead and copper out of public water supplies and providing resources to help communities remove contaminants that may already be present. He has also introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act, legislation to protect children in affordable housing from lead poisoning by requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to adopt prevention measures and update its lead regulations to protect children from the risk of lead exposure.