Albany, N.Y., June 16—Amid growing reports of lead in school drinking water throughout New York, the State Senate today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) to require schools to test for lead contamination at the tap in public schools, inform parents and teachers of the test results, provide state funds for testing and remediation, and require the state Department of Health to create an annual report based on these tests.
"There’s not a more important place to start this overall and ongoing effort to better address lead contamination than within our schools to protect our children. The increasing incidents of lead contamination in school drinking water systems demand that we take short- and long-term actions to strengthen testing, reporting and remediation requirements," said O’Mara, chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.
[Watch more from Senator O'Mara on the need for the legislation HERE]
The legislation (S7103/A9687C) is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) and is currently in the Assembly Education Committee. Earlier today, O’Mara joined a coalition of New York public health, environment, and healthy schools advocacy groups to urge support for the measure’s enactment in the Assembly.
O’Mara expressed confidence that the legislation will pass the Assembly and urged the Assembly Democratic leadership to act on it [see update on Assembly action HERE].
The bill would require schools to test for lead contamination at the tap in public schools, inform parents and teachers of the test results, provide state funds for testing and remediation, and require the state Department of Health to create an annual report based on these tests. Schools would be able to be reimbursed for the cost of remediation projects through building aid. Schools which recently performed testing and met the established standards would also be eligible for a waiver.
Lead is a major health hazard, especially for young children. It has been found in drinking water in at least 89 schools located across the state from Binghamton to Ithaca to Rochester to Long Island.It has been found in drinking water systems in schools in Binghamton, Ithaca, Rochester, Long Island and elsewhere. Numerous studies have shown that lead poisoning is most detrimental to young children, who absorb lead faster than adults. High lead blood levels can damage a child's ability to learn and cause brain damage. Most state and federal laws and regulations focus on the testing of children for lead poisoning, but not the environments where they spend the most time outside of their home.
Two federal rules address lead in the drinking water: the Lead Contamination Control Act (1988), and The Lead and Copper Rule or LCR (1991, amended in 2000). These rules provide guidelines for the testing of water for lead contamination. For schools, the guidelines are recommendations and not mandatory.
Currently testing is voluntary and only a handful of school districts report the results. O’Mara’s legislation would ensure that regular testing of school drinking water systems is completed and require that parents, teachers and others are notified of testing results in a timely manner. The legislation also allows school aid to be used for the testing and remediation of lead contamination in school districts.
Specifically, the legislation:
> directs the state Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with the State Education Department (SED), to promulgate regulations requiring school districts to test potable water sources and systems for lead, and the reporting of results;
> authorizes the state Education Commissioner to authorize funding to cover the cost of testing and remediation of potable water sources and systems;
> authorizes funding for board of cooperative educational services to defray expenses related to the cost of water testing and remediation; and
> authorizes the state Education Commissioner to approve expenditures, as a construction emergency project, to address the immediate remediation of potable water systems due to lead contamination.