Blumenauer, Bonamici Join Effort to Help Schools Test for Lead & Remove Lead Contamination from Water

September 15, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) joined Representative Jackie Speier (CA-14) to introduce the No Lead in School Water Act, legislation to help schools test for lead and remove lead contamination in drinking water.

“Our community was shocked to learn of widespread lead contamination in drinking water at our schools that was much worse than the initial results first reported. Portland is not alone. Schools across Oregon and the country are facing similar crises of lead in drinking water, and we’ve all let it happen,” said Blumenauer. “We need regular, rigorous, and transparent testing for lead and other contaminants, and more resources to fix the problem – especially as our water infrastructure continues to age. It’s past time to act to protect the health of our children.”

“I share the frustration of so many families in Oregon and across the nation whose children have been exposed to lead in their school drinking water," said Bonamici. “As the devastating public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues, many families across Oregon have learned that their children have been exposed to lead-tainted water. This is unacceptable. As a mom and a policymaker, I will continue to advocate for more resources and transparency and for mandatory screening for lead in drinking water in schools”

“We can’t continue to stick our heads in the sand in the hope that lead contamination will just go away,” said Speier. “Lead is extremely toxic to children, and there is no safe level of exposure. Congress did try to address this national health risk with the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988, but the way the act was written resulted in it being deemed unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment, and so it failed. My bill fixes the issues in the original act by making the grant program voluntary with a set of national standards tied to funding opportunities. It’s time to protect our most vulnerable citizens once and for all.”

Currently, an estimated 90,000 public schools and half a million child-care facilities are not required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test their drinking water regularly for lead. As a result and because of limited resources, many of these schools do not test for lead contamination. Congress attempted to mandate state testing of schools for lead through passage of the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988; however, it was ruled unconstitutional.

The No Lead in School Water Act fixes the law by creating voluntary grant programs under EPA for state-based lead testing and remediation for school drinking water. To meet funding requirements, participating states must comply with a set of national standards, including: mandatory school testing, consumption site testing, an EPA / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directed remediation action level, public posting of test results, and creation of test result explanation materials for families.