Kaine wants federal protections for school drinking water, on top of existing Virginia law
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Kaine is pushing for federal protection for school drinking water on top of Virginia’s state-mandated protections for students.
Kaine joined 34 others in calling the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency to protect students from lead in drinking water.
Virginia students have had some level of protection from lead in drinking water since 2017, when Section 22.1-135.1, “Potable water; lead testing” was added to the code of Virginia, but Kaine and his colleagues want federal protection for Virginia students, as well as students in other states where there are no such state laws.
Though state law does require schools in Virginia must test for lead, there is currently no state agency assigned to receive testing results from the school districts, according to Dwayne Roadcap, director of the Office of Drinking Water at the Virginia Department of Health.
Many areas of the country currently don’t require lead testing of public schools’ water.
“A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows an estimated 41 percent of public school districts did not test for lead in school drinking water, and a third of districts that were tested showed elevated levels,” Kaine’s press release stated.
“Senator Kaine and his colleagues wrote this letter to urge the Department of Education and EPA to make improvements recommended by the GAO that would give states – including those like Virginia that require water testing – clearer guidance on the best practices for testing water and what actions to take if elevated levels of lead are discovered,” Sarah Peck, a Kaine spokeswoman states in an email.
According to Peck, among the improvements recommended in the GAO report are: The EPA give information to states and school districts about “schedules for testing school drinking water for lead, actions to take if lead is found in the drinking water and the costs of testing and remediation.” Make the Department of Education’s website more user-friendly to ensure states and school districts can better access key resources to address lead in water.
“Lead is a neurotoxin, and any amount of exposure in a child can slow growth and development, damage hearing and speech, and cause learning disabilities,” wrote the senators, according to the press release.
“If lessons are learned from water crises like the one in Flint, Michigan, the Federal Government should provide all states with that information so they can update their approach to lead testing and treatment and help prevent similar failures in the future,” Peck states.