Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


February 16, 2018

Environment Committee gives favorable report to Ehrlich and Lovely bill to study lead in school water

BOSTON—Representative Lori A. Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem) announced the favorable release of their bill to study the prevalence of lead in school drinking water (H.2915/S.456) from the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture (ENRA). The bill would mandate the creation of a commission tasked with solving the emerging public health crisis of children exposed to lead in their schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Environmental Protection, there is no safe level of lead exposure. In Massachusetts, nearly half of the school water tests conducted (49.7%) found some level of lead in the water. Lead in pipes, plumbing, water fountains and more have been found to leach lead into school water. In addition, many schools’ water service lines are still made of lead. While lead removal in paint and gasoline has been successful, lead in our water supply still remains a burgeoning threat to public health.

According to the World Health Organization, lead “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.” It is distributed in the body to the brain, liver, kidney and bones, stored in teeth and bones where it accumulates.

“We know there is lead in our drinking water that puts developing brains of our school children at risk. The Committee redraft of our bill sets out a clear path to resolving this problem that involves teachers, parents, administrators, and health and infrastructure experts.” Ehrlich said. “No parent should worry that a drink of water at school could harm their child.”

““Schools must be safe places for children to learn and students must never be exposed to harmful toxins like lead,” said Lovely. “This commission is a great first step to ensuring our students are protected from harmful lead poisoning.”

The commissioners of the Departments of Public Health and Elementary and Secondary Education will serve as co-chairs of the commission. The commission will be rounded out by legislative designees and representatives from the Mass. Water Resource Authority (MWRA), the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, the Mass Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Toxics Action Center, MassPIRG, Clean Water Action, and a representative of a relevant plumbing trade union.

The commission will be tasked with filing a report to the legislature on evidence-based methods for testing for and remediating the harmful effects of lead in school drinking water, the cost of implementing those solutions, and the feasibility of each solution.

“Massachusetts currently does not mandate lead testing in school water — which means that we do not even know the extent of this problem,” Ehrlich added. “It’s time to get the lead out.”

With the favorable report of the Joint Committee, the bill will now move on to the next stage of the legislative process en route, hopefully, to a vote.