Leaders Call on Legislature to Get the Lead Out of School Drinking Water

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BOSTON – Public health leaders and organizations called on state lawmakers to pass a bill to get the lead out of drinking water at Massachusetts schools and childcare centers at a State House public hearing.

Testifying before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources,  a coalition of public health, environment and parent groups urged the committee to pass An Act ensuring safe drinking water in schools, (S526 & H851) filed by State Senator Joan B. Lovely (Salem) and State Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (Melrose) and a bipartisan group of legislative cosponsors to get the lead out of our schools and childcare centers.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs how our children develop, learn, and behave.  Yet, according to the lead testing data from the Department of Environmental Protection, more than 80% of the 62,557 taps tested from 1738 schools and child care centers across Massachusetts since 2016 tested positive for lead.

“The data is clear – based on state testing results we know there is lead in most of the taps tested at schools and childcare centers across the state and we know children are the most impacted from exposure to lead,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG legislative director.  “We need policies that get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools.”

Earlier this year, MASSPIRG Education Fund and Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center released the third edition of the national report,  Get The Lead Out report, which gave Massachusetts a C- grade for its lack of a statewide requirement to prevent lead contamination of schools’ drinking water.

“Providing safe drinking water to our students represents an economic, environmental, and moral imperative,” said State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “I am pleased to partner with Representative Lipper Garabedian, MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts PTA, Environment Massachusetts and so many advocates to file this bill that would help to fix this problem.”

“As a former public school teacher and mother to two school-aged sons, I am proud to have filed this legislation to promote the health and safety of students, teachers, and school staff across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose).

“Parents and educators want and expect safe, healthy schools and childcare centers for our children and students to learn, grow and be productive. No parent wants to worry about drinking water containing lead because there is no safe level of lead for children,” said Massachusetts PTA, President Karen De Roche. “We must collectively protect and secure for them, clean drinking water; today, now in 2023.”

An Act ensuring safe drinking water in schools requires schools and childcare centers to install water filling stations certified to remove lead and or use filters certified to remove lead on faucets used for drinking or cooking when at least one tap in the school has been found to contain lead; regular testing of drinking water;  and the immediate shut-off of outlets with lead. The bill is supported by many organizations including Clean Water Action, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Massachusetts PTA, Community Action Works, Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, MASSPIRG and Environment Massachusetts.

“Everyone should have access to clean, safe drinking water — especially our kids, whose health is most at risk from lead pollution,” said Lydia Churchill, Campaign Associate for Environment Massachusetts. “With thousands of tests showing lead in Massachusetts’ schools, we can’t afford to waste any time to protect children from this clear health threat.”

“The good news is that we know how to get the lead out of drinking water,” concluded Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director, “We just need the leadership and commitment to do so. Passing this bill will ensure our kids, their teachers, and the school and childcare community will be protected from lead poisoning.”

Full testimony

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