Helena, MT – The second edition of Environment Montana Research and Policy Center’s Get the Lead Out study gave Montana a failing grade today for its inaction in addressing lead contamination in school drinking water.
“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play,” said Environment Montana state director Skye Borden. “We should be doing more to protect our kids from lead in drinking water.”
Most schools and pre-schools still have fountains or faucets that contain lead, and wherever there is lead, there is a risk of water contamination. A recent survey of voluntary school tests found that 75% of water samples taken by Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula city schools contained lead.
Currently, most of Montana schools are not required to test for lead in drinking water. For schools that do voluntarily test and find lead, there is currently no requirement to remediate the problem or notify parents about it.
HB 118, introduced by Rep. Julie Dooling (R-Helena), would allow the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to create a grant program to help schools test and remediate for lead. It was recently tabled in the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The recent discovery of arsenic in the Three Forks water well reinforces the fact that we do not know what is in our schools' drinking water,” said Rep. Dooling. “Lead and copper leaching come from inside the system from service lines and fixtures. This is especially concerning as many of our rural school are aging structures.”
The bill received wide support, including from the DEQ and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Montana Environmental Information Center, Montana Conservation Voters, and Northern Plains Resource Council. Parents were especially eager to see the bill move.
“Parents and educators work so hard to take care of our children, and we need to understand the risks,” said Livingston mom and Moms Clean Air Force representative Michelle Uberuaga. “The consequences of lead poisoning are too high to ignore.”
Parents in other states are demanding action too. Environment Montana’s counterparts are working with doctors and parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.
“Although Montana’s existing policies are not making the grade, I am encouraged by the widespread, grassroots movement that is rising up to address the issue,” noted Borden. “I’m hopeful that this will be the last year our report gives Montana an ‘F’.”
View the full report here: https://environmentmontana.org/reports/mte/get-lead-out-0