In one of the last actions under the Trump administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strengthened its rule regarding the reduction of lead and copper in drinking water following fallout from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
For the first time, Texas will now test drinking water at thousands of its schools and childcare facilities for lead and copper.
“Lead or lead-lined pipes were used in older structures. We know that many of our schools are housed in older buildings. There may be some changes of lead contamination running through the plumbing,” said Texas A&M University-Central Texas Department of Nursing Director & Chair Amy Mersiovsky.
The state requested $8 million from the legislature this session to create a program to test water systems as well as oversee any corrective actions that may be needed.
The state did not previously have any testing requirements. However, several local school districts, like Temple ISD, Waco ISD and Killeen ISD test their water throughout the year to make sure it’s safe to drink.
Local health experts say over time, exposure to lead can be harmful and cause several health problems, especially for small children.
“Lead can cause you brain and neurological damage in kids. It can cause developmental delays, developmental problems. You can also damage vision and hearing,” said Mersiovsky.
The new EPA rule requires community water systems to sample 20% of elementary schools and 20% of childcare facilities per year. The state plans to make the rule a requirement for local schools by 2024.