Dangerous Levels of Lead in Water Found in Half of Montanan Schools + One School’s Water Considered ‘Hazardous Waste’

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Nearly half of Montana schools that had their water tested had dangerously high levels of lead concentration, according to a new report by Kaiser Health News which details the discrepancies and challenges for schools seeking to source safe water supply for students.

Just over a year ago, the state’s Department of Public Health and Human Services passed a rule requiring schools to get tested every three years for any lead in the water in any sinks or water faucets, including ones used for food preparation. Lead is a toxic metal known to cause long-term organ and nervous system damage, with children being particularly vulnerable and susceptible to lead poisoning. KHN notes “Although federal rules require that community water sources be tested for lead, schools have largely been free from that oversight and can decline to be tested.”

…State officials have said 589 school buildings need to meet Montana’s new rule. Of the 222 schools that had turned in samples by Feb. 18, 110 had at least one water fixture with lead levels higher than 15 ppb, Almost a third of all fixtures tested so far across the state had dangerous levels of lead in their water, according to state data.”

Skyview High School in Billing had by far the worst water. One sink tested at 7,800 ppb, a number so high that federal environmental regulators consider it hazardous waste. Those taps and any producing higher level than 15ppb have been shut down and locked out.

While some schools are moving to immediately fix the issue, for many the large capital expenditures needed to fix the water supply is seemingly insurmountable, with no funds available for the heavy investment needed to resolve it. Biden's recently passed infrastructure bill allocated $55 billion to expand access in the country to clean drinking water, but these funds have not been disbursed yet, and many cash-strapped districts will have to pay out-of-pocket.

This article was sponsored in part by David Dunn of HD 8. Dunn resides in Flathead County.




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