Wednesday 7 December 2022
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State Requires Lead Testing for All School Drinking Water

Andrew Cuomo. Image: Pat Arnow

Andrew Cuomo. Image: Pat Arnow

As the new school year kicks into action, New York State officials want to make sure that every child has access to safe drinking water.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill requiring schools to test all water supplies for lead contamination, with results to be made publicly available to the state and to parents alike.

All elementary schools will need to complete testing by the end of September, and other schools must be tested by the end of October. Schools that have already recently tested for lead according to the new legislative guidelines may receive a waiver, but new tests must be completed every five years.

“These rigorous new protections for New York’s children include the toughest lead contamination testing standards in the nation, and provide clear guidance to schools on when and how they should test their water,” Cuomo said.

Lead contamination is known to cause neurological impairment, especially in young children. Many parents have little knowledge about what’s contained in their children’s water supplies; a 2012 study, for example, found that 65% of parents using bottled water did not know how much fluoride it contained.

Under the new law, schools found to have high levels of lead — more than 15 parts per billion — must cut off access and provide another supply until fixes can be made to meet regulations.

Some schools across the state have voiced tentative concern about the costs of testing. However, officials argue that the safety of children should be the top priority.

“The promise of having safe drinking water is not something we can negotiate,” said Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Board Association. “We just can’t go to those parents and say we [would] like to do it but we don’t have the money.”

New York is the first state in the country to mandate statewide regulations, Cuomo’s office said.

“There are hundreds of thousands of pipes in buildings and schools across New York state, which cannot cheaply or easily be replaced,” said State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “That’s why maintenance, flushing, and testing are so important.”