New Hampshire schools have until next summer to get in compliance with the state’s new lead testing law. But advocates hope schools won’t wait to begin the process.
Exposure to almost any amount of lead can cause developmental delays and other health issues in young children.
“We think schools should be proactive and addressing this issue now to ensure that the drinking water that they’re providing to their children is safe,” says attorney Tom Irwin of the Conservation Law Foundation, which lobbied for the new law.
The bill, signed in February, requires in part that public and private schools and licensed childcare facilities begin testing their water for lead by July 1, 2019.
“I think with the testing that will now be required of schools, we will be learning a lot about what the scale of this problem is,” Irwin says.
Schools have to notify parents and take steps to upgrade their water systems if they find they have lead above the Environmental Protection Agency standard of 15 parts per billion.
Irwin hopes schools will choose to use an even stricter threshold – 1 part per billion, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Irwin’s group recently sent a letter to school administrator and nurse associations, urging early compliance with the new law. The letter includes an EPA list of lead-lined water coolers that schools could remove immediately.
The state Department of Environmental Services also wrote to schools, outlining the requirements and deadlines for testing.
The new law doesn't provide specific funding for schools to deal with any lead found, but the state may make some grants and loans available.
The law also sets up universal lead testing for young children unless parents opt out, and creates new loans for landlords to remove lead from their buildings.