State to grant $2 million to protect children from lead in drinking water in schools and child care centers

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MASSPIRG applauds program, encourages participation, calls for swift action to get the lead out

BOSTON – The state of Massachusetts announced Thursday that it is offering a second round of  School Water Improvement Grants (SWIG) to help elementary schools and child care centers to get lead out of their drinking water by replacing tainted water fountains. The SWIG program, funded by the  Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, is run by State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs how our children develop, learn and behave.  Yet, according to testing data from the DEP, more than half of the 43,000 taps tested in 980 schools across Massachusetts tested positive for lead. 

MASSPIRG Legislative Director Deirdre Cummings released the following statement on the launch of the second round of the SWIG program.

“This is great news, and a very important step in protecting children from the hazards of lead exposure in schools.  We hope all eligible schools and child care centers apply for grants to replace their lead-contaminated drinking water fixtures.

However, given the urgency and scale of the problem, we must do much more to ensure safe drinking water at every school in the Commonwealth — including replacing fountains with filtered water bottle stations and installing filters on all other taps used for cooking or drinking.

We now have an incredible opportunity to do so.  In addition to SWIG, the recently passed, bipartisan federal infrastructure bill includes $200 million for schools’ lead reduction work. And for just a small fraction of the federal stimulus funds schools are now receiving, we could take comprehensive steps to ensure safe drinking water at all Massachusetts schools – as outlined in An Act ensuring safe drinking water at schools, S580/H906, filed by state Sen. Joan Lovely (Salem) and state Rep. Lori Ehrlich (Marblehead) and a bipartisan group of legislative cosponsors. The bill, currently pending in the legislature, would protect children by establishing a health-based action level for lead in drinking water based on science. It also would require the installation of lead-certified filters or water filling stations, regular and transparent testing of water and the removal of lead-contaminated fixtures.

Massachusetts has been a leader in protecting our children’s health and safety, and we can be ahead of the curve in getting the lead out of drinking water in all our schools and childcare centers by passing the bill and investing in clean drinking water.”

More details about how to apply for SWIG grants, click here.