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Tonko Releases GAO Report Showing Lead in U.S. School Drinking Water

Study shows just 43 percent of school districts nationwide tested for lead in school water, 37 percent of those found elevated lead levels

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Washington, July 17, 2018 | comments

WASHINGTON – This afternoon, Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Congressman Paul D. Tonko released a disturbing new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showing just 43 percent of school districts nationwide tested for lead in their schools’ drinking water in 2016 and 2017, and of those that tested more than one-third (37 percent) found elevated lead levels. 41 percent of U.S. school districts did not test for lead at all, and 16 percent of school districts did not know.

“After the tragedy of Flint, Michigan, we know too well the long-term health dangers that lead in our drinking water can pose, especially to children and young adults,” said Tonko. “This devastating report makes clear that even now millions of America’s children are still being exposed to dangerous amounts of lead at school. New York State has been a national leader on raising standards for lead testing in schools but those standards may not cover all schools. I strongly encourage parents to contact their local schools to make sure their water is being tested for lead."

Tonko added, “Every school should be testing for lead, and when elevated lead levels are found, we need to ensure that local communities have the resources they need to address the issue and keep our children, teachers and school communities safe. My colleagues in Congress need to treat these findings as an urgent call to vote immediately on bipartisan legislation I have long-supported to improve our nation’s drinking water infrastructure including to help schools reduce the risk of lead exposure. The pain and cost of failing to act on this will only grow deeper the longer we wait.”

GAO conducted this report after receiving separate requests from Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). The report includes seven recommendations to address lead in school drinking water, including that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) update its guidance on how schools should determine lead levels requiring action. GAO also recommended that EPA and the Department of Education collaborate to further disseminate guidance and encouraging testing for lead in schools. EPA and the Department of Education have agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

GAO’s report is available HERE

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