HOUSTON – A Houston lawmaker is taking action after KHOU 11 Investigates discovered schools skipping recommended testing for lead.
State Senator Sylvia Garcia said she was both surprised and disappointed after KHOU 11 Investigates found less than one third of Houston-area school district surveyed had records showing they tested drinking water for lead.
The EPA has recommended school test water for more than 20 years, but the testing has not been mandatory in Texas. Garcia’s Senate Bill 1587 would change that.
Both public and private schools, along with child care facilities would be required to test drinking water for lead. If an unacceptable level is found, schools would have to shut-off access to the water fountain or faucet within 24 hours and report the results to the state.
Parents and teachers would also have to be notified.
Experts say lead exposure can lower IQ levels, lead to learning disabilities and hyperactivity, and delay development in children.
In an interview last fall, Garcia made the case for mandatory testing.
“I think it's incumbent on us to be proactive and to make sure that we do all that we can to protect our children and make sure that they're safe at school and that they're drinking water that's safe to drink,” said Garcia..
Both Houston Independent and Alief school districts announced plans to test all schools after KHOU 11 Investigates began questioning district about their lead testing policies.
Records show 15 HISD buildings had at least one sample above what the federal government deems an acceptable lead level in schools. Another 10 buildings in Alief ISD had high lead levels in the drinking water.
Garcia’s bill would also lower what’s consider an acceptable level. Currently, the EPA sets the lead guideline for schools at 20 parts per billion.
Garcia, citing research showing repeated exposure to even small amounts of lead can cause problems, proposes anything over one part per billion be defined as an elevated lead level.
According to an email, HISD says of the 173 campuses tested, 147 of them had at least one sample with a lead level greater than one part per billion.