Reps. Quigley, Lawrence Introduce the “Get the Lead Out of Schools Act” to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Students
WASHINGTON – Last week, 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.
“Lead in school drinking water poses an invisible yet grave threat to our children’s wellbeing, and it is a threat that demands the immediate attention of every parent, citizen, and level of government,” said Rep. Mike Quigley. “By finally requiring the EPA to establish a lead contamination testing program for all schools, we can better ensure that our kids’ classrooms are safe, healthy spaces for them to learn and grow.”
There is currently no federal law requiring the testing of drinking water in schools. In 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.
“When we send our children to school, we expect them to have a healthy and safe learning environment. However, families across our country are facing the threat of drinking water contaminated with dangerous neurotoxins like lead,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence. “Growing children are especially vulnerable to the damaging and irreversible health effects caused by lead exposure. As we have seen in cities from Flint to Baltimore and the recent Detroit Public Schools drinking water shutoff, contaminated water is a crisis in our communities. Safe drinking water is a fundamental right and ensuring our children have access to safe drinking water at school must be a priority.”
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.