This week our Director of Government Relations, Christopher Goeken, represented the NYLCV in partnership with schools and elected officials to advocate for the testing of water in New York State schools. Along with the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Healthy Schools Network, he presented the following five point plan:
- Mandate that all schools test their water for lead and copper contamination at the tap
- Provide safe drinking water if elevated lead levels are in school drinking and cooking water
- Tell test results to parents and teachers quickly
- Fund remediation such as filters or new pipes
- Report school water testing annually, with results compiled by the State Department of Health
Few schools currently test their water voluntarily, but areas like, Ithaca and Binghamton are the first of potentially many locations where there has been lead contamination levels at 480 ppb compared to the EPA’s threshold of 15 ppb.
As we have seen from other large-scale crises, like Flint, MI, water testing should be performed routinely, especially where young children are involved, as lead poisoning has the potential to impair development. As Christopher Goeken states, “This problem has been around a very long time, and it has not been fixed… There’s no federal requirement for testing drinking water in schools for lead.” The legislation needs to change before there is another incident like that of Flint.
Former Rochester educator, Ralph Spezio, is also a strong advocate towards this testing, especially after acquiring medical records of his students. Just about 75% of the students in his school testing positive for severe lead-poisoning. While some of this may be from the home, there is still the possibility that it is coming from the school, as lead in the water isn’t the only issue – there are issues with remodeling and renovations where lead paint and dust can settle on desks, books, and other areas of the school that will be exposed to students.
With only six weeks left in the legislative session, it is imperative that legislation be enacted before it is too late. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, and Senator Tom O’Mara have put forth legislation that will achieve in meeting the goals of this plan, but there is not vote set for it in both the Senate and Assembly.
“We want all schools to test their water for lead. It’s common sense. We want to remove this loophole in the regulations,” said Christopher Goeken with the New York League of Conservation Voters.