Report: PA Is Failing To Resolve Issue Of Lead In School Drinking Water

Mar 26, 2019

According to a new report by the advocacy group PennEnvironment, schools in the commonwealth are not required to test for lead -- it's recommended, but schools can skirt around the issue by holding a public meeting on lead. If a school does test, it's not required to share those results with parents. 

Allegheny County Health Director Karen Hacker said the issue of lead in schools is pervasive. According to PennEnvironment, lead has been found in water taps and fountains in schools across the commonwealth, including in Pittsburgh. 

"We as a county have to be very aware of the fact that there's a potential for lead exposure in so much of our old infrastructure," Hacker said.

In response to the report, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Deb Gross said the city is lucky to have historic school buildings, but she said every water fountain needs to be tested for lead.

"We need to be sure that those water fountains are either filtered or replaced, so we're not exposing our kids to lead in schools at school time," Gross said. 

A state House of Representatives bill was proposed Tuesday that would implement tighter rules around lead testing in schools if enacted. House Bill 930, led by Rep. Karen Boback (R-Lackawanna), would require yearly lead testing for water outlets in schools. Schools would have to share those results with parents. 

Lead can cause lifelong brain damage and other harm, especially for children, although Pennsylvania health officials say exposure to lead-based paint chips and dust, not tainted water, is the primary cause of childhood lead poisoning.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is spending $50 million to replace lead service lines in the city, give filters to low-income residents, and take other steps to address the city's lead crisis

The Associated Press contributed to this report.