In a continued effort to ensure safe drinking water in schools across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) today launched the 2017-2018 Lead in School Drinking Water Assistance Program, seeking to again help more public schools and day care centers test for lead and copper in their school drinking water. The 2016-2017 program was completed last spring after thousands of taps and drinking water fountains in more than 800 school facilities were tested.\n\n\u201cWe are proud to build upon last year\u2019s success and continue the program to ensure that all children have a safe and healthy learning environment when they are at school,\u201d said Governor Charlie Baker. \u201cWe look forward to continuing our work with Treasurer Goldberg and school districts across the Commonwealth to test several more facilities this year and educate officials on ways to address any elevated levels.\u201d\n\nThe testing program was funded last year with $2.75 million made available by the Baker-Polito Administration and State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg through the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. Approximately $600,000 of that funding remains and will be utilized to help more schools perform testing this school year.\n\n\u201cEvery student in Massachusetts deserves safe, clean drinking water in their school,\u201d said Treasurer Goldberg. \u201cI am proud to work collaboratively to provide our schools and day care centers the funds they need to test water in their buildings.\u201d\n\nThe program is designed to encourage more schools to perform lead and copper testing with the help of experts at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Under current federal laws, testing in schools is voluntary and this program is designed to help schools implement effective testing programs and take water samples, and to educate them about how to address elevated levels.\n\n\u201cThe Lead in School Drinking Water Assistance Program is a great opportunity for school districts across the Commonwealth to work with the state to check their water infrastructure and ensure student safety,\u201d said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. \u201cThe execution of these tests and subsequent follow up work is a great example of state and local government working together for the betterment of our communities.\u201d\n\nElevated lead and copper was detected in less than 10 percent of the drinking water taps and water fountains tested last year. School officials were encouraged to shut off those water fixtures as they determined appropriate next steps, and to communicate the results along with short-term actions plans to parents and staff. Among the actions taken by schools were to remove and replace fixtures, use signage to indicate fixtures not intended to be used for drinking water, and the implementation of water line flushing programs. Information on the testing program can be found here.\n\n\u201cDuring last year\u2019s program, nearly 56,000 water samples were collected from approximately 32,000 water faucets, drinking fountains and other fixtures within public schools,\u201d said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. \u201cThe testing program has had a positive impact across Massachusetts, and has helped protect thousands of students and staff. The remaining funds will enable additional communities that take advantage of this year\u2019s program and safeguard against lead exposure.\u201d\n\n\u201cWe hope more schools take advantage of the Lead in School Drinking Water Assistance Program to test their water taps, using the expertise of the Department of Environmental Protection. It is a good precaution to ensure children are not exposed to elevated lead levels, particularly in some of the state\u2019s older school buildings,\u201d said Education Secretary James Peyser.\n\nWater supplied to schools is generally free of lead, but lead can be introduced into drinking water through plumbing and fixtures in buildings \u2013 especially in facilities more than 20 years old. Copper can also enter drinking water through plumbing, so the assistance program will also address copper levels in drinking water. Historically, the majority of lead poisoning cases in Massachusetts are attributable to lead paint exposures, however other sources including drinking water in schools continues to be an important concern for children\u2019s health.\n\n\u201cMassDEP is pleased to partner with additional school districts this year to test the water and help local officials determine what best practices to use to ensure that their water is clean and safe,\u201d said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. \u201cAll of the test results will be posted on our web site for the public to see, listed there with all of the results posted from last year\u2019s program.\u201d\n\nThe Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is providing lab analysis and supplemental technical assistance at no charge to the school systems located in communities served by the MWRA. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst will also be providing technical assistance to all school systems participating in the program. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health\u2019s Bureau of Environmental Health supports the assistance program by developing educational materials and by assisting school departments with how to communicate test results to school communities. Additionally, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and the Department of Early Education and Childcare (EEC) are assisting with program outreach to public schools across the Commonwealth.\n\n\u201cMWRA is proud to be part of the statewide team that is working diligently to protect the health of the state\u2019s children,\u201d said MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey.\n\nThe Massachusetts Clean Water Trust lends financial assistance to the Commonwealth under the State Revolving Fund program by providing subsidized loans to cities and towns for clean water and drinking water infrastructure development. Since its establishment in 1989, the Trust has loaned approximately $6.6 billion to improve and maintain the quality of water in the Commonwealth. An estimated 97 percent of Massachusetts\u2019 citizens have benefited from the financial assistance of the Clean Water Trust.