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Schumer: Fed money for lead testing at schools, day cares

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pours Long Beach's clean

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pours Long Beach's clean water back into the water fountain from which it came after a news conference at Long Beach Middle School on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Credit: Gabby Recny

School districts and day care centers that test their water for lead would have a chance to get reimbursed for the cost of the testing under legislation proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), at an appearance at Long Beach Middle School on Wednesday, said the legislation would provide an incentive for school districts across the country to voluntarily test for lead.

“No lead is good for a child’s brain,” Schumer said. “So we have to do everything we can.”

The metal, banned from pipes since 1986, can still be found in water piping installed before that year and can potentially leach out into water delivered to students, he said.

Lead has been linked to several serious health problems in children, including intellectual disabilities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency recommends schools take action if they find lead in their water fixtures at 20 parts per billion.

The bill, which is still being drafted, would provide $100 million from the federal Clean Water Fund to reimburse districts and day cares for the cost of testing their water fountains and spigots. Districts that have conducted testing since Jan. 1, 2016, would be eligible for reimbursement under the legislation, which is slated to be introduced next month. The program would be administered by the EPA.

While water districts test the public supply for lead, there is no federal or state requirement that schools on public water supplies test their fixtures for lead potentially leaching from their own pipes.

The proposal comes after the discovery of high levels of lead in the public water supply in Flint, Michigan, leaching from old pipes. Elevated lead levels have also been found in schools in Newark and Ithaca.

“For a lot of school districts, this is going to be really helpful,” said Roy Lester, president of the Long Beach Board of Education. The district has tested its water and has found no lead.

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