Lawmakers are considering two bills to improve school water safety. Both set worthy goals, but only one meets safety goals without costing a fortune.
IN 2009, Washington adopted a rule that would require testing school water for lead. But the rule never went into effect because the Legislature hasn’t found the money to pay it. Instead, like other education expenses in this state, whether your child’s school is testing its water depends on your ZIP code.
A bill before the House would finally make money available for this important safety measure and wisely move Washington toward taking responsibility for children’s health.
House Bill 1925 would require testing of all drinking and cooking water inside schools, while outlining reasonable and affordable mitigation if lead is found. The proposal focuses on old pipes and fixtures inside of schools, and plans for temporary and permanent fixes.
It also requires notification to parents, teachers and the district of lead found in excess of 1 part per billion, a higher standard than the federal government’s. Legislative staff estimates the program would cost about $6 million every two-year budget cycle.
No amount of lead is good for a child’s development. Their small bodies make them especially susceptible to lead contamination. Repeated lead exposure can cause developmental delays, personality changes, high blood pressure, memory loss, aggressive behavior and other physical and mental changes.
The House Environment Committee should pass HB 1925 by Friday’s policy-bill deadline.
A second bill offers a different approach, but House Bill 1805’s solution could also be considerably more expensive. This proposal, being considered in the same committee, would require public utilities to remove all lead-containing pipes leading into schools, day-care centers and other places where children congregate. The solution would improve community-water systems, but the price tag, estimated by one expert at several billion dollars, is more than the state budget can handle this year. Proponents are working with lawmakers to narrow its scope and make it less expensive, but the actual cost is still unknown.
Both bills have the noble goal of keeping lead out of the water that kids may ingest. But HB 1925 would make school water systems a lot safer but not cost billions to do so.