Maryland gets a C Grade for efforts to address lead in school drinking water

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

New Maryland PIRG study assesses whether state is improving on this pressing issue

Maryland PIRG

Annapolis – Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Maryland PIRG gave Maryland a C grade today for addressing the problem, according to a new report. In the second edition of Maryland PIRG’s Get The Lead Out study, the state showed progress as Maryland received an F grade in 2017. State Delegates Jared Solomon and Stephen Lafferty, State Senator Cory McCray, and the Baltimore Teachers’ Union joined Maryland PIRG in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Maryland’s schools.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play. Maryland should be doing more to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Maryland PIRG Public Health Associate Kyanna Cadwallader. “We need policies that get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools.”

As more Maryland schools test their water, they are finding lead. For example, thanks to Maryland’s 2017 law, testing has begun for all taps in public and private schools across the state. Unfortunately, they are finding lead at frightening levels.

  • Elevated levels of lead have been found in counties across the state: Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll, Calvert, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Washington, Wicomico, and Queen Anne’s. 
  • Some tests came back with astonishing levels of lead. For example, a classroom water fountain at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Silver Spring tested 356 ppb and in Kensington a kitchen faucet at Einstein High School tested at 700 ppb.

Many schools and pre-schools still have fountains or faucets that contain lead, and wherever there is lead, there is a risk of water contamination.  

“I applaud the progress Maryland has made to address lead in our schools’ drinking water since 2017, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English. “This is a no brainer, we must work harder and faster to eliminate lead from our school faucets. There is no acceptable excuse for our students, educators, paraprofessionals and all of those who spend time in our schools to be at risk of being poisoned by lead.”

Under current law, Maryland schools are only only required to remediate for lead if found at above 20 parts per billion (ppb). Yet, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school drinking water sources not exceed 1 part per billion. Delegate Jared Solomon and Senator Cory McCray have proposed legislation (HB1253/SB481) to require remediation at at 5ppb as opposed to 20ppb, and to create a grant program to help schools remediate. The bill passed through the House of Delegates with a unanimous vote.

“A ‘C’ is an unacceptable grade for Maryland. Our bill, The Lead Reduction and Remediation Act, will give us the resources needed to get lead out of our schools and do right by our kids,” stated Delegate Jared Solomon.

Next, the bill will be considered by the State Senate. 

“Our current standard for lead in drinking water is unacceptable,” explained State Senator Cory McCray of Baltimore. “Parents shouldn’t have to think twice about whether the drinking water at their child’s school is safe to consume.”

To improve on current law, Maryland should lower the action level for lead in drinking water, as proposed by Delegate Solomon and Senator McCray. The state should also consider additional actions such as extending the law to include day care centers, disclosing all tests results, and providing both funding and clear timelines for remediation.

“I am pleased to see that Maryland schools have made progress due to my 2017 legislation that required testing of school drinking water and public notice,” explained Delegate Stephen Lafferty, “However, we still have a long way to go to ensure that no child is exposed to lead in school drinking water or wherever they are living or playing. I applaud my colleagues, Del. Solomon and Sen. McCray, for pushing for stronger legislation this year so that more outlets and drinking facilities can be replaced.”

Montgomery County Councilman Tom Hucker has introduced a similar local measure for Montgomery County to lower the action level to 5 ppb.

The state measure has wide support, including Clean Water Action, Maryland Public Health Association, the Baltimore Teachers’ Union, and the co-signatures of 31 state delegates. Parents and teachers are especially eager to see the bill move.

“We know that no level of lead is safe for our children and we’re going to continue this fight and this battle whether it’s in Annapolis, Washington D.C. or whether it’s back home in Baltimore Cty until this matter is resolved,” explained Gerimi Belin, BTU Member, Teacher at The Green School in Baltimore.

“We should absolutely be testing to figure out where there is lead in our schools, but that’s is not enough,” said Emily Scarr of Baltimore, who’s 1 year old daughter is in daycare. “It’s time to get the lead out of schools and daycares, where our youngest Marylanders spend their days.”

“We have made some good progress in Maryland, but we are disappointed to find that we have a ways to go if we want to be top of the class in protecting Maryland children from lead at school,” concluded Cadwallader “Our kids deserve better.” 



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