Texas gets an F for efforts to address lead in school drinking water

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Bay Scoggin

Talarico bill would ensure lead-free water in schools


Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Texas and TexPIRG gave Texas an F grade today for addressing the problem, according to a new national report. The group announced support for legislation by Rep. James Talarico to ensure lead-free water in Texas schools and daycares.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Texas is still failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Bay Scoggin, Director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group(TexPIRG). “We need policies that actually get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools.”

As more Texas schools test their water, they are finding lead.  Since 2017, testing has uncovered lead in the drinking water of at least 784 Texas schools, or 71% of all schools tested.

“It is imperative that Texas public schools and childcare facilities eliminate lead in drinking water. Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility strongly supports HB 2998 which goes a long way to identify, remediate and prevent exposure to lead in drinking water for children and youth. Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead in drinking water because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. Even at low exposure levels, lead can be harmful to human health. It is persistent, and can bioaccumulate in the body over time,” said Steve McKee, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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

Nevertheless, current state law has no requirements to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. HB 2998 by Round Rock Representative James Talarico would change that by allowing no more lead than 1 part per billion (ppb), as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and requiring water utilities to pay for remediation.

“No parent should have to worry about their child drinking from a school water fountain,” said Rep. Talarico. “It is our job to ensure that every aspect of Texas schools are safe. I’m proud of the work our office is doing to guarantee our students are healthy, safe, and ready.”

“Do we really want to wait for more tests to show that our kids have been drinking lead?” asked Brennan Griffin, whose son attended Ridgetop Elementary in Austin in 2017 when lead was discovered. “It’s time to get the lead out.”

“We were disappointed to find that Texas’ efforts are at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school,” concluded Scoggin. “Our kids deserve better.”