Boston – With children across Massachusetts heading back to school this week, advocates offered a new toolkit to help parents, teachers, and administrators get lead out of schools’ drinking water.
The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center and MASSPIRG Education Fund urged parents and teachers to put the new toolkit on their “back to school” reading list.
“Our kids deserve safe drinking water at school,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “We want to give parents, teachers, and school administrators the tools they need to ‘get the lead out.’”
“At a time when we have driverless cars and 3D printers, we should not tolerate a system that delivers lead-laden water to anyone, let alone our children,” said Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director for MASSPIRG Education Fund. “Luckily, this is one problem we know how to fix. We just need to do it.”
More and more schools are finding lead in their water. In Massachusetts, tests have shown lead contamination in nearly half of 67,000 water samples collected at schools.
Moreover, such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg. As noted in the toolkit, most schools built before 2014 have plumbing or fixtures that can leach lead into drinking water. And at some older schools, the service lines that bring water from the mains in the street into buildings are made entirely of lead.
"Our children come to school to learn and develop their minds,” said Jennifer Francioso, President of the Massachusetts PTA. "In order for our kids to succeed, we need to provide a safe and healthy environment — and that includes drinking water free from lead."
The toolkit includes a fact sheet, a video, sample materials to press for action, and links to additional resources, especially on technical questions like proper testing.
School districts are largely left to address lead contamination on their own, as current state law does little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school.
Earlier this year, the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center and MASSPIRG Education Fund gave Massachusetts a grade of D in addressing this threat to children’s health. While the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has coordinated an extensive voluntary testing program to identify lead contamination in water at schools, the state has not yet adopted measures to require the replacement of lead service lines or the installation of filters where lead is detected.
“Our children need safe drinking water,” said Hellerstein. “As our kids head back to school, let’s work together to protect their health by eliminating lead from our water.”
The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.
With public debate around important issues often dominated by special interests pursuing their own narrow agendas, MASSPIRG Education Fund offers an independent voice that works on behalf of the public interest. MASSPIRG Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer Bay Staters meaningful opportunities for civic participation.