Washington’s public-private schools will soon be required to take new steps to curb the effects of lead exposure after schools order or replace toxins dumped in water sources.
Bill 1139, which removed the last hurdle in the state Senate in a 48-0 vote Sunday, is intended to address gaps in school safety requirements. So far, the government has not required schools to test or record lead levels, although some do so voluntarily. The House approved the measure by a 94-4 vote on March 4. It is now moving to Governor’s Ay Ին Insli’s desk.
“It’s actually a bill for the nation, this bill,” said Gary Pollett of the state, D-Seattle, who sponsored the bill. “So I feel very good about it.”
Politics has been waiting for a long time. This is the third year in a row that Pollett has introduced a bill. And its adoption came in the afternoon on Sunday, a few hours before the legislature adjourned to pass bills at this session.
“The cord has fallen,” said Molly Coding, a graduate student in public health at the University of Washington who worked on the bill. “The testimonies of our lawyers, their actions with the legislators, sent a really clear message that this is what the public wants.”
Schools are now required to check water outlets, including drinking fountains, but bathroom sinks and cooking in schools built by 2016. The State Department of Health (DOH) has trouble testing, but schools are also allowed to contract with private testing companies, which can be more expensive. They should check every five years և publish the results on the DOH website. The trials should begin as soon as the bill goes into effect, Pollett said, banning any new or dangerous concerns about the epidemic.
If outlets return to high levels of lead, schools will have to correct or replace them. The bill provides $ 3 million to support these efforts, plus an additional $ 1 million for DOH to coordinate the trials.
Many school districts are now checking their water outlets, although this is not required of them. Voluntary testing of state elementary schools found that 97 percent of schools had at least one faucet with a lead concentration of more than one billion, the recommended safe drinking water threshold, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The bill is less strict. T qualities should be corrected or replaced if they exceed 5 billion parts. Schools have six months to develop the program. Legislation does not require schools to turn off taps immediately unless they have tried more than 15 billion. This provision has been added to the House of Representatives version of the bill, which allows districts to keep some taps free until they are fixed. A number of Western Washington districts opposed the bill, arguing that the cost of repairing the faucets was more expensive than the state planned to fund.
The effects of lead found in drinking fountains և sink paints, brass valves և fixtures are not safe at any level. It is especially dangerous for young children whose brains are still developing. It can damage the nervous system, cognitive or permanent growth retardation.
The legislation is “a good step in the right direction,” but it is not perfect, says Pam Clough, acting director of the Washington Environmental Advocacy Group. The bill is named in honor of Bruce Spite, the group’s former CEO, who died in 2019. Years later, he lobbied state legislators to pass legislation to protect school drinking water.
Future legislation should strengthen Washington’s demands, Cloff said. “The law will be improved if a test is required every year instead of every five և if it orders schools to immediately turn off taps with high concentrations of lead.
“(Bruce) was a staunch advocate for safe drinking water for Washington children,” Clough said. “I know he would be really proud of this bill as a first step; he would like us to never stop fighting.”