Saturday, January 29, 2022

Tests at many Montana schools show problems with lead levels. Nation World News

Billings, Mont. ( Associated Press) — Most of the Montana schools that meet the state’s program deadlines have high lead levels in drinking water in schools.

In early 2020, the state of Montana required all public schools to test their drinking water for lead for the first time. Schools were given time till December 31 this year to collect initial samples.

Yellowstone Public Radio reported that now, with two weeks to go before the deadline, 136 schools – only a quarter – have sent samples and 125 of them have at least one sustainability lead exceeding the state action level. .

Billings Superintendent Greg Upham said all 32 schools in Montana’s largest district have submitted their water samples for laboratory testing.

“In a school district the size of ours, you can imagine the amount of fixtures and faucets,” he said.

Like other school districts in Montana, Billings’ samples found that most schools used at least one fixture for food and drinking water that exceeded state limits for lead content.

“Overall, I was very happy,” Upam said. “I thought it would be more, but in a school (district) large enough for this size, it’s still definitely an issue.

“It’s going to take us a while to replace them.”

The prevalence of lead-based plumbing across the United States came under public scrutiny in 2014 following a high-profile case in Flint, Michigan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children are especially vulnerable to poisoning: Prolonged exposure can cause issues including brain damage and developmental delay.

Montana announced its school lead testing program in January 2020, the same month the US reported its first case of COVID-19. Now, nearly two years later, the state says that most of Montana’s 560 schools have yet to comply with the program’s requirements.

In a city belt of about 500 people in central Montana east of Great Falls, Superintendent Joe Gaylord said schools in his district had recently submitted their samples.

“COVID really took all the energy focused on this, and so the lead stuff was kinda put on the back burner,” he said. “But everyone knew the deadline was coming.”

Gaylord said the school district is awaiting lab results.

“Many piping has been replaced. “We have some areas that have old piping, so that’s where we’ll be — we’re not too high a concern that we have an issue, but it would be nice to know if we do.”

The maximum allowable amount of lead in Montana water is 5 parts per billion, the same concentration limit set by the US Food and Drug Administration for lead in bottled water. The state requires schools in excess of that limit to submit mitigation plans.

Carolyn Pakenham, with climate action group Elevate, co-authored a report examining how state schools are addressing lead in drinking water. She said most US schools were built before 1986, when the Safe Drinking Water Act imposed restrictions and in the US “there was a lot of lead used in our plumbing.”

Pakenham said mitigation strategies can range from installing water filters to a more expensive solution to replacing pipes.

“Schools with fewer resources are going to have a harder time channeling leadership, and this directly affects the children they serve,” she said. “So, if we really want to protect all children in all communities, regardless of their income or school district, we need to really provide financial resources to help these facilities take care of these sources of lead. is required.”

As part of the state program, schools are required to flush their pipes with water if it remains stagnant for more than three days. The state says installing filters is a viable way for schools to address fixtures with high levels.

Greg Montgomery is a leader in school drinking water regulations manager under the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. He says the state is currently able to use funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency to cover sampling, but not mitigation.

“However, the infrastructure bill was passed with … they added five additional years to that program and they also changed the wording so that we can use it for treatment and sampling,” Montgomery said, “so This is an upcoming funding source that will be available to schools.”

The infrastructure bill for clean drinking water includes more than $50 billion nationwide. Montgomery said the state could learn what its allocation would be in the coming weeks.

Billings superintendent Greg Upham, meanwhile, said his schools are considering closing or replacing fixtures that have been tested for lead beyond the state limits.

“It’s like anything. You find something new and everyone goes crazy, including yourself, and then you start dealing with that,” he said. “And so, it’s possible. I mean, it’s definitely time and cost, but we’re working on it.”

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