February 14, 2019 (MONTPELIER, VT) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and Vermont Conservation Voters released the following statement today in response to the Vermont Senate’s passage of a bill designed to protect children from lead poisoning in schools and child care centers. The bill now moves to the house for consideration.
“Our kids shouldn’t have to play a dangerous game of chance every time they drink from a fountain in their school,” said Jen Duggan, Vice President and Director of CLF Vermont. “This bill marks a huge step forward in protecting Vermont’s children from the dangers of lead poisoning. We have an opportunity to ensure every child in Vermont has safe drinking water at their school. Let’s get this done for our kids and school communities.”
There is widespread consensus among public health experts that there is no safe level of lead. Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause permanent damage, and children are especially at risk. Due to a gap in Vermont’s safe drinking water laws, most schools are not required to test for lead. A recent pilot program revealed that all of the 16 schools tested had at least one drinking or cooking tap with lead concentrations above the Vermont health advisory of 1 part per billion (ppb).
“Lead is a poison that has no place in our children’s drinking water,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “VPIRG applauds the Senate for taking this important step to protect kids’ health.”
The bill would require testing at all schools and child care centers by January 1, 2020. Schools and child care centers with taps above 3 ppb will have to shut off taps until water is safe to drink. The bill also requires parental notification and a public database for test results and includes state funding for testing and a portion of remediation costs.
“We all watched in horror as the lead contamination crisis unfolded in Flint, and now we have the opportunity to ensure Vermont’s children aren’t drinking lead-contaminated water in daycare or at school. We appreciate the Senate’s work on this important issue and look forward to working with the Vermont House to ensure the bill is as protective of our children’s health as possible,” added Lauren Hierl, executive director, Vermont Conservation Voters.
You can read more about CLFs’ efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning here.
Experts are available for further comment.