2017-02-24 / Community

Senator presents school water safety bill

Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth) presented a bill to strengthen water testing requirements in Maine schools to protect children from the health risk of lead poisoning.

The bill – LD 40, “An Act To Strengthen Requirements for Water Testing for Schools” – would require schools connected to public water supplies to undertake the same annual testing regimen required at schools that draw water from wells or other non-public sources.

“All families deserve to know that the drinking water at their children’s schools is safe,” said Millett, who also represents South Portland and part of Scarborough. “We cannot have a strong set of standards for some schools and a lesser standard for others. Lead poisoning can have disastrous effects on children, and it is our responsibility to protect all of them, regardless of where they live.”

The Maine Education Association, Maine School Management Association and Maine Public Health Association all testified in favor of Millett’s bill during a public hearing in the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Millett spoke earlier in the day during a press conference hosted by Environment Maine, during which the group released its report, “Get the Lead Out: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water for Our Children at School.”

The report graded states for their work to protect children from lead poisoning at school. Maine joined 11 other states in earning an “F.” It also noted that Maine has “particularly corrosive water, which can dissolve lead from plumbing systems” and into the water supply.

Among other recommendations, the report advises that Maine should “require testing of all water outlets used for drinking or cooking at all schools annually, using protocols designed to capture worst-case lead exposure for children.”

Maine law currently requires water testing only at those schools that draw from non-public water sources. LD 40 would extend that testing requirement to all schools, and would require the Department of Health and Human Services to disclose the results of these tests to the public, not only at K-12 schools but at nursery schools as well, so that parents and the public can make informed decisions.

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