OLYMPIA— The Washington State Senate narrowly missed an opportunity yesterday to protect Washington schoolchildren from lead in drinking water. Senators were considering a bill (SB 5745) that would have required water utilities to remove lead service lines (LSL) at schools and early childhood programs within three years and all lead service lines in the state by July 1st, 2030. The bill was not brought forward for a vote by Senate leadership before yesterday’s policy cutoff.
“SB 5745 would have taken a critical step forward in protecting our kids from lead in schools and preschools,” said Bruce Speight, WashPIRG and Environment Washington Director. “No parent should have to worry whether their child is drinking lead at the places where they learn and play. We must keep at it and get the job done.”
Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that causes chronic problems: it lowers IQ and causes behavioral problems. Lead is especially damaging to kids – impairing how they learn, grow, and behave. Medical literature cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows more than 24 million children in America will lose IQ points due to low levels of lead.
While lead can leach into water from older fixtures or plumbing, lead service lines – the pipes that connect a school to the public water system - are one of the most significant sources of lead contamination. In fact, experts have calculated that lead service lines account for 50-75 percent of lead found at the tap in residential settings.
“Senator Patty Kuderer has championed this fight to ‘get the lead out.’ Not only did she introduce this important legislation, but she also worked tirelessly to advance it. Her leadership was critical to getting the bill this far,” continued Speight.
Senator Kuderer championed a comprehensive striker amendment yesterday that would have required full lead service line removal, not partial, and that schools install filters for six months and test for six months after LSL removal. National experts have advocated that these provisions are critical to ensure children are protected from lead exposure.
A February 2017 analysis by Environment Washington gave Washington State a grade of ‘F,’ failing to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. Washington State administrative code requires testing, but it is currently unenforced because there is no funding for it. Washington State requires no remediation, and allows lead in drinking water up to 15 parts per billion. Washington received partial credit for the Governor’s goal of removing all lead service lines in 15 years. In Environment Washington Research and Policy Center’s comparison of 16 states, these shortcomings gave Washington State a GRADE OF ‘F’.
“State action is urgent because current state law does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. We can’t rest until we get the lead out of our drinking water infrastructure. We look forward to working with state leaders to take meaningful action that protects our kids from the dangers of lead exposure in drinking water,” concluded Speight.
Environment Washington is a statewide, membership-based environmental advocacy organization that works for clean air, clean water and open spaces. www.environmentwashington.org. WashPIRG is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization that stands up to powerful special interests. www.washpirg.org.