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Washington’s lead bill wouldn’t safeguard school drinking water

Environment Washington, WashPIRG urge stronger legislation to get the lead out
For Immediate Release

SEATTLE -- The state Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on a significantly-weakened version of a bill related to lead in schools’ drinking water. 

Pam Clough, acting director of Environment Washington, issued the following statement in advance of the hearing:

“Washington’s children deserve clean, safe drinking water when they go to school each day. But without substantial improvements, the version of HB 1860 introduced in the state senate will not keep lead out of our schools’ drinking water.

“Even at low levels, lead is especially damaging to children -- impairing how they learn, grow and behave. Here in Washington, 60 percent of the taps tested at our schools found lead in the water.

“That’s why schools need to get the lead out: replacing lead-bearing fountains and faucets, installing filters, and ensuring that lead concentrations in water do not exceed one part per billion (ppb), the limit recommended for schools by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

“As originally introduced in the House, HB 1860 included steps toward these policies, including a 5 ppb standard for schools’ water and requiring filter installation as part of remediation.  

“Unfortunately, our state senators are now presented with a drastically weakened version of HB 1860 that would likely do more harm than good for the water our children drink at school. First, the bill not only weakens the limit on lead to 9 ppb but also precludes the state from updating this standard until 2030. Second, the bill not only exempts schools from most remediation without state or federal funding but also says that schools "may not conduct remediation activities" exceeding $2,000 without such funding. 

“In contrast, several jurisdictions now require remediation of schools’ water at 5 ppb of lead or less -- including Illinois, Montana, Vermont, and Washington, DC. SB1860 would keep Washington among the laggards on lead in school water for an entire decade.

“We urge the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education to dramatically strengthen HB 1860 so that it would at least truly reduce the pervasive lead contamination in our schools’ drinking water, rather than perpetuate it.”