PTA, NEA join call for safe drinking water at school

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Groups’ letter comes as EPA mulls lead rule update 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the back-to-school season in full swing, groups representing families, educators and concerned citizens are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get the lead out of schools’ drinking water. The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), National Education Association (NEA), Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund sent a letter to the EPA on Thursday calling for measures to prevent lead contamination at every drinking water tap in schools. The groups’ letter comes as the EPA is expected to send proposed updates to the Lead & Copper Rule to the White House for review.

“Families and educators know that kids need safe drinking water to thrive, so we’re giving the EPA a homework assignment: craft new rules that truly get the lead out,” said John Rumpler, clean water director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. ”We’re hoping the EPA works hard enough to make the grade.” 

Lead is a major threat to childrens’ health, and it is contaminating drinking water at schools across the country. While lead pipes have rightfully received considerable public attention, schools’ water is more often at risk from lead-bearing fountains, faucets and plumbing.  

“Clean water is vital to the health and success of all children, and access to clean, safe drinking water is a basic human right, especially in our nation’s schools,” said Yvonne Johnson, president of National PTA.It is essential that strong, strict water quality standards, laws and regulations are put in place and implemented effectively to maintain the highest possible levels of water quality and help ensure every child has a healthy and safe environment in which to live, learn and thrive. National PTA remains committed to advocating for clean, safe water for all children, families and schools.”

Only schools that provide their own water are regulated directly under the federal Lead & Copper Rule. For these schools, the letter calls on the EPA to require the following prevention measures at every drinking water tap: 1) install filters; 2) replace lead-bearing fountains and other parts; and 3) set a 1 part per billion limit on lead in water, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Such rules — along with other EPA programs — would also help guide school districts that use public water systems. Drinking water at those schools is not adequately safeguarded in most states. 

“President Biden has articulated a bold vision of ending lead contamination of our drinking water,” said Rumpler. “Now, we need the EPA to realize that vision — especially in all the places where our kids go to learn and play each day.”