OLYMPIA—On Wednesday, February 19, the Washington House of Representatives passed a bill that will protect Washington school children from lead in drinking water.
House Bill 1860, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, will establish a 2025 deadline for schools to test all faucets used for drinking water or in food preparation at schools. Schools would repeat the testing every five years, paid for by the Department of Health. Schools would notify parents of results when elevated lead levels are found and develop action plans to reduce all lead levels to below nine parts-per-billion (ppb). The testing of all faucets used for drinking or food preparation and notification would be one of the strongest protections in the nation.
“When we send our children to school, the water we want them to drink shouldn’t reduce their IQ and ability to learn,” said Rep. Pollet, who is also a faculty member at the University of Washington School of Public Health. “The neurological and developmental problems created by even low levels of lead exposure have been well documented. It is time to protect our children here in Washington.”
Initial voluntary testing funded in the state budget. According to an analysis by a UW School of Public Health student, 616 schools participated in recent voluntary testing conducted by the Washington Department of Health and Seattle Public Schools. Of those schools, 38% had at least one faucet with lead levels over 20 ppb. Numerous schools had lead levels well over 100 ppb, and two schools had levels over 1,000 ppb. About 2,000 schools remain to be tested.
Remediation to below 9 ppb is typically accomplished with filters, flushing or valve replacement. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is already funded to provide grants to school districts to pay for these costs which are typically under $2,000.
House Bill 1860 passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 98-0 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.