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Statement: Lead is a Serious, Pervasive Threat in Montana

For Immediate Release

This week, the University of Montana disclosed that it had found lead levels significantly above the EPA cut-off in two buildings. In response to the news, Environment Montana director Skye Borden issued the following statement:  

“The discovery of dangerously high lead levels in drinking water on the UM campus reaffirms what we already know: lead contamination is a serious, pervasive threat in Montana.

Lead is a neurotoxin that impacts the way children and young adults grow, develop and behave. It is so toxic that experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend a health standard of 1 part per billion for water in schools – a level significantly below the EPA’s utility cut-off of 15 ppb and far below the levels discovered in Skaggs and North Corbin Hall.

Our research found unsafe levels of lead in 75% of tests conducted by four of Montana’s largest K-12 school districts. And in all likelihood, these confirmed cases of lead in schools’ water are just the tip of the iceberg. Most schools have at least some lead in their pipes, plumbing, or fixtures. And where there is lead, there is risk of contamination.

The only way to ensure safe drinking water for our schools and universities is to simply get the lead out. This involves proactively removing lead bearing parts from school drinking water systems – including service lines, faucets and fixtures – and installing filters certified to remove lead at every tap used for drinking or cooking.

Lastly, I want to applaud the University of Montana for publishing their full test results online. Parents, teachers are students deserve to know if their water is safe. I hope more schools throughout the state will follow the university’s lead and make their test results publicly available.”