OLYMPIA—On Thursday, March 4, the Washington House of Representatives passed a bill that protects Washington school children from lead in drinking water.
House Bill 1139, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, will establish a 2026 deadline for the Department of Health to test all faucets used for drinking water or in food preparation in public schools. Districts will notify parents of results when elevated lead levels are found and develop action plans to reduce all lead levels to below five parts per billion (ppb). This bill would be one of the strongest protections in the nation.
“When kids are in school, the water they drink shouldn’t reduce their IQ and ability to learn,” said Rep. Pollet, 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. When our kids return to school, their parents need to know we have a plan to fix any lead contamination problems. It is time to step up protect our children here in Washington.”
According to an analysis by a UW School of Public Health student, 551 schools participated in recent voluntary testing conducted by the Washington Department of Health and Seattle Public Schools. Of those schools, 82% had at least one faucet with lead levels of at least 5 ppb, and 49% had a faucet with lead levels over 15 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.
Filters, flushing or valve replacement are usually successful in remediating lead levels to below 5 ppb. These costs are typically under $2,000 per school.
House Bill 1139 passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 94-4 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.