Harrisburg Offers Ambitious Proposals To Minimize Lead Exposure In Pa. Cities

Mar 24, 2016


In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., eight laws have been proposed from the House and the Senate in the Pennsylvania legislature over the past two days. In this file photo, signs warn not to drink the lead-contaminated water from a fountain at Woodside Church in Flint.
Credit Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Surrounded by state health officials and fellow lawmakers, Senator Vincent Hughes said, "The only thing good that came out of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., is a renewed, intense effort from states around the country to attempt to address what's going on with lead in their respective communities."

Pennsylvania is no exception. The state House of Representatives held a bipartisan press conference Tuesday, proposing a package of laws to reduce the lead risk in the commonwealth. On Wednesday morning, the Senate Democratic Caucus did the same.

Senate proposals

The five bills proposed by the Senate Democratic Caucus focus mostly on testing buildings for lead paint and lead pipes. Senators Art Haywood and Shirley Kitchen proposed two bills that would require schools and daycares to be tested for lead on a regular basis or before getting a license to operate. The results of lead testing would be posted to the school district website.

Senator Wayne Fontana is sponsoring a bill that would require home buyers to be given the option to test the water in the home for lead. EPA water testing regulations only measure whether the anti-corrosive plan is working, not whether each home is safe from lead-contaminated water. The only way to be sure that pipes aren't leaching lead into the water is to test your own home individually.

As we've reported, funding for lead abatement in Pennsylvania has been cut significantly in recent years. Homeowners who discover a lead hazard in their home are often left to remediate it at their own expense. Lead remediation can cost well over $10,000, and considering lead poisoning predominantly affects low-income families, that can be an unmanageable burden. Senator Vincent Hughes has proposed creating a lead abatement "Super Fund" that could help schools, daycares and homeowners with the cost of lead remediation.

But before any of those bills end up on the floor of the Senate, Senator John Yudichak proposed creating a task force that would provide information about the lead hazard in Pennsylvania.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Yudichak said they would "work with the Department of Health and DEP and all the stakeholders involved to put together a task force, so we can study the issue, in terms of our housing stock, our schools, our daycare centers. We can come up with best practices recommendations to remediate lead."

Read more of this report on the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads