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PTA supports clean drinking water in our schools to protect the health of our children. As such, WSPTA supports House Bill 1139, which would pay for and require testing for lead and remediation of public school outlets (faucets, etc.) that have elevated levels of lead (above 5 ppb). We encourage local and especially council leaders to ask your district questions, educate your parents, and advocate where necessary for clean drinking water.
Washington public schools are not currently required to test drinking water for lead. Our Washington State Department of Health states: “Children six years old and younger are the most susceptible to the effects of lead. Their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Even at very low levels of exposure to lead, children may experience effects including lower IQ levels, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, poor classroom performance, or other harmful physical and behavioral effects.” You can learn more here.
The state runs a funded voluntary testing program through the Department of Health, and you can look here to see whether your district has participated.
Of schools that have voluntarily tested, 82% had at least one outlet (faucet, etc.) that exceeded 5 ppb.
Lead does not typically occur naturally in water supplies but comes into the water through contact with aging faucets and fountains. Sometimes a simple filter is sufficient to remediate the problem and make the water safe to drink. As parents, we want every child to have clean drinking water at school.
We encourage you to contact your districts and school boards and ask what their policy is to test for and remediate elevated levels of lead if any are found. You could ask your school board to put this on the agenda or hold a study session.
Some districts in our state have opposed this bill on the basis that testing and remediation will be too costly. Some components of the bill indicate that (1) the testing will be paid for by DOH, (2) the remediation will be paid for by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and (3) the requirements of the bill are null and void if money is not appropriated for these purposes, so we are hoping that concerned parents can start conversations with school board members and district leaders. Ask your district if they support or oppose this health-based measure. Reach out to your regional advocacy chairs or the WSPTA advocacy director for more information or assistance.
Here is a Seattle Times article with more information on the proposed bill.
View the bill itself here, and you can comment directly on the bill by clicking the “comment” button on the upper right.
Ultimately, there is no “safe” level of lead above zero for Washington’s children in their drinking water. Let’s raise awareness about a safety feature that can be easily tested and implemented before our school buildings are back to full capacity.
Guest post by the WSPTA Advocacy Committee