Maine Schools Still Untested For Lead, Despite It Being Law For Three Years

Maine schools were required to test for lead in schools in 2019, but more than half have still failed to do so.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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lead in schools

Lead found inside a child’s body can be extremely harmful to their health. In the wake of the Flint, Michigan water crisis foof 2018, more and more public schools began testing their own water systems for lead in schools, either by mandate or sometimes voluntarily to keep children as safe as possible. In the state of Maine, lawmakers passed a law in 2019 that required all public schools to test their drinking and cooking water sources for lead, but many have still failed to do so as the deadline now expires.

Fox23 Maine reported that Maine school districts initially were given until the end of this May to test for lead in schools. But after three years to do so, many of them still have failed to collect the needed water sources for testing. Because of this, the state felt it had no other option than to force an extended deadline. The Maine CDC Drinking Water program recently announced that schools will now be given until the end of this year to comply and send the water samples to the state.

The results were quite staggering. Less than half of all the schools in Maine had submitted their water samples for testing for lead in schools. Instead of demanding school administrators submit tests immediately, representatives from the Drinking Water program offered excuses for why schools were falling behind on administering the tests. Amy Lachance, with the government program, said, “I think they’re doing the best that they can and we’re trying to work with them and get the information out. We’re trying to make it as simple as possible.” Additionally, she cited some examples of why schools may have missed this deadline, citing COVID closures as a likely reason.

Despite the excuses, the lack of compliance is potentially upsetting to many parents who now are unsure whether or not the drinking water in their children’s school is safe or not. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no level of lead in school water is considered safe for consumption. Even low levels of exposure can cause severe damage to children in their nervous system. Similarly, it can lead to learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and blood issues. To make matters worse, even small doses of lead in a child’s body can have a much worse effect than it possibly could on adults. 

To make matters worse, the program has released results from those that submitted the lead testing in schools. Of those tested, some have shown extremely high concentrations of lead. In response, these schools cut off access to the specific water fixtures that were contaminated. Some are now providing bottled water to students instead. Surprisingly, remediation of these fixtures is “strongly recommended” by the state, but not required by law. 

lead in schools

Some families are appalled at the lack of quick attention given to the lead in schools matter and wondering why something that seems so simple to undergo has taken so long for many districts to do. However, given that every single water source –from drinking fountains to kitchen faucets – needs testing, it can be a tedious task for school officials. Even more, this procedure needs to be done in the morning before school starts, as the water needs to have been stagnant for at least eight hours in pipes to record an accurate reading. But for concerned parents worried about student safety and health, that is no excuse.