Boston ー Last night, Governor Baker released his budget for FY 2020, which includes $30 million to help districts across Massachusetts tackle the pervasive health threat of lead in schools’ drinking water, a key recommendation from public health organizations and advocates.
“In order to eliminate this threat to our children’s health, schools will have to take steps to “get the lead out” — including installing filters on faucets and replacing lead-bearing fountains and other parts of the water system," said Emma Dietz, clean water associate at Environment Massachusetts. "The proposed $30 million in Governor Baker’s budget will help provide schools with the resources to take these steps."
Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs how children learn, grow, and behave. Yet lead contamination of schools’ drinking water is pervasive. Of more than 43,000 taps at 980 schools across Massachusetts since 2016, 59 percent had lead in the water.
“By proposing substantial funding to get the lead out of schools’ drinking water, Governor Baker has shown real leadership in protecting our children’s health from this toxic threat, said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Legislative Director.
"This measure finally addresses a significant loophole in the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule. Governor Baker is to be commended for recognizing the importance of ensuring that the water our children drink during the school day is not contaminated by lead, a poison long-known to prevent children from fulfilling their potential,” said Dr. David Bellinger, a professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Maryalice Foisy, President of the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, and the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association Board of Directors also commented on the proposed budget, saying, “Our children deserve a healthy and safe environment to grow and learn in. We all know lead in drinking water poses a threat to our children’s health. We are pleased to see Governor Baker including significant money in his budget to help schools get the lead out.”
“I'm delighted that Governor Baker has made protecting children from lead exposure at school a priority. Senator Joan Lovely and I have expressed the same priority in a bill we filed last week. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature and the Governor to ensure that children's developing brains are not exposed to lead and children across the state are able to realize their full potential,” said Representative Lori Ehrlich (Marblehead).
“The inclusion in the Governor’s budget of $30 million to help schools eliminate lead in the water consumed by students and staff shows that the time has truly come to tackle this major public health problem,” stated Senator Joan Lovely (Salem). “I am proud to partner with Rep. Ehrlich, MASSPIRG, and environmental groups on legislation that would ensure that all children in the Commonwealth will finally have access to safe drinking water while in school.”
In addition to funding, the coalition is calling for Massachusetts to adopt a health-based standard for lead in drinking water at schools and daycare centers of 1 part per billion, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Governor Baker’s proposed funding marks a key milestone in our efforts to get the lead out of our children’s water at school,” concluded Dietz. “We look forward to continued leadership from the Baker administration to ensure that all our children have safe drinking water wherever they go to learn and play each day.”
The new funds are included in H.1, outside sections 58 and 62.