CLARKE INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO REMOVE LEAD FROM SCHOOL DRINKING WATER
Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) announced the introduction of the Safe School Drinking Water Act. This legislation would protect children from the harmful impacts of lead contamination in drinking water at schools and childcare programs by providing much needed assistance for the installation and maintenance of filtered drinking water stations.
“Simply put, there is no safe level for lead when it comes to the health and wellbeing of our children,” said Congresswoman Clarke. “It is critical that we make every effort to remove lead contamination from drinking water in schools and childcare centers, which far too often are the primary pathways by which children become exposed to lead toxins. By providing schools and childcare programs with the funding needed to install filtered drinking water stations, my legislation will ensure that our children’s drinking water is healthy and safe while we simultaneously work to address the infrastructure challenges that contribute to this dangerous contamination.”
Lead contamination in drinking water continues to pose a major health risk across the nation, especially to young children. According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 56 percent of New York public school buildings tested above the current statewide action level of 15 ppb at five percent or more of their drinking water outlets. Even at low levels, lead exposure can cause irreversible damage to a child’s development and cognitive ability, leading to serious health and developmental challenges in the long term. This issue is particularly pronounced in Black children, who across the United States are almost three times more likely than average to have highly elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream.
Current levels of lead in school drinking water present an alarming crisis, intensified by the fact that children spend most of their day in school buildings with little to no alternatives for safe drinking water. Lead contamination in school and childcare drinking water is frequently the result of plumbing pipes and fixtures within the building itself that leach lead and are difficult to identify and remove. Older drinking-water fountains are also common sources of contamination.
The Safe School Drinking Water Act will ensure that drinking water at schools and childcare programs is safe for children by establishing a new program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide financial and technical assistance for the installation and maintenance of filtered drinking water stations that are proven to remove lead and other toxins. Assistance will also be provided for the annual testing of drinking water systems following the installation of filtered water stations. To ensure equitable benefits of this program, the legislation directs EPA to grant priority to under-funded and disadvantaged schools that have suffered disproportionately from contaminated drinking water with fewer resources at their disposal. No matter where the exact source of lead contamination may be, filtered water stations will immediately ensure that children have access to water that is safe and healthy to drink.
“All children deserve to have a safe learning environment, free from lead contamination in their drinking water,” continued Rep. Clarke. “This issue is a national crisis, and it deserves as much of our attention and assistance as is needed in Congress until drinking water at every single fountain within each individual school and childcare location across this nation is once again safe for our children to use. My Safe School Drinking Water Act takes us one giant step forward towards meeting this necessary goal.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke is joined by 14 members of the House of Representatives in introducing the Safe School Drinking Water Act, including Congressmembers Nanette Barragan (CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Alan Lowenthal (CA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Nydia Velazquez (NY), Donald Payne (NJ), Dwight Evans (PA), Marie Newman (IL), Adriano Espaillat (NY), Barbara Lee (CA), and Grace Meng (NY).
“Even as the back to school season begins, we know that all too often, the drinking water where our kids go to learn and play each day is contaminated with lead,“ said John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America. “Rep. Clarke’s Safe School Drinking Water Act gives school districts critical resources to get the lead out.”
“Eliminating lead from drinking water in schools must be a national priority. Children should be enriched at school, not exposed to a dangerous toxin like lead, which inhibits brain development,” said Joan Leary Matthews, Interim Senior Director for Water Initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This funding for a ‘filter first’ approach to remove lead in school drinking water is cost-efficient and effective. Representative Clarke’s bill is an important public health protection for school-age children.”
“There is no reason to keep putting our kids at risk of long-term health problems from lead in our drinking water,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG’s environment campaigns director. “With Rep. Clarke’s bill, we have the opportunity to protect our nation’s children and future generations from exposure to this highly toxic substance.”
“Schools and daycare centers should be places where children feel safe to learn and grow, not a place where their health is jeopardized by lead-contaminated drinking water,” said League of Conservation Voters Deputy Legislative Director, Madeleine Foote. “No level of lead exposure is safe, but too many children suffer from the potentially devastating impacts of lead, especially Black children who are three times more likely to have elevated lead levels in their bloodstream. We thank Representative Clarke for introducing the Safe School Drinking Water Act, which is a critical step in the right direction to delivering on environmental justice and assuring that all children, regardless of race or zip code, can learn and play in a safe and healthy environment.”
Yvette D. Clarke has been in Congress since 2007. She represents New York’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes Central and South Brooklyn. Rep. Clarke is a Senior Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee, and a Senior Member of the Committee on Homeland Security.