Mar 25, 2019

Report Assigns "F" Grade to 22 States for Efforts to Remove Lead

The report identifies states that lack effective protocols to remove lead from drinking water in schools

Report Assigns "F" Grade to 22 States for Efforts to Remove Lead

Updated 12/16/19

A report released by the advocate groups Environment American Research & Policy Center and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund gave 22 states an “F” grade for efforts to remove lead from school drinking water. The report surveyed 32 states and provided grades on the effectiveness of laws to require schools to proactively remove lead from school water systems.

According to The Seattle Times, Washington was among the states that received a failing grade in the report. The national report follows a recent analysis of new data that found 97% of schools participating in a voluntary testing program in Washington had at least one drinking water source with lead levels above 1 ppb, a standard set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, Seattle school districts use a tighter standard for lead in school drinking water of 10 ppb and tests drinking water at schools once every three years.

The report recommends several policies to remove lead from drinking water in schools. First, the report recommends schools proactively replace fountains, faucets and other fixtures with lead. It also recommends installing and maintaining filters certified to remove lead on every faucet used for cooking and drinking in schools, as well as providing water quality testing annually. Federally, the report recommends strengthening federal rules to protect drinking water from lead.

Read the full report and see the grades assigned to each state in the study here.

WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello talked to the study's lead author, John Rumpler, senior attorney and clean water program director for Environment America Research and Policy Center, for a print feature article published in May 2019 in WQP

“Our first priorities were any policies that proactively get the lead out,” Rumpler said. “Policies that remove lead-bearing fountains, faucets and plumbing, and policies that install filters to prevent contamination before kids are drinking water at the tap. Right behind that is the level at which schools are willing to tolerate lead in the water.”

The report found that while many states use the federal standard of 15 ppb in drinking water, some states and school districts do not inform parents of lead contamination found at schools until testing exceeds the federal threshold. As long as there is lead in the water delivery system, there is a risk of contamination, which is why the report recommends proactive, preventative solutions, including installing filters on all faucets and fountains used in drinking and cooking at schools, Rumpler said.

Overall, the report gave 22 states an “F” grade for efforts to remove lead from school drinking water. However, the exact grades are not the bottom line. 

“Are any of us really satisfied with anything less than an ‘A’ to protect our kids health?” Rumpler said. “The overall picture is that the vast majority of states are failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water.”

The article, title From Coast to Coast, is the first in an in-depth series focusing on lead contamination across the country. Read the rest of the series: