The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has brought new attention on lead in our water supplies. Unfortunately, problems with lead in school water supplies have been lingering on for years. Mainly caused by archaic buildings and plumbing, extended by neglect and tight state budgets, and made possible by a loophole in federal rules that exempts schools from the responsibility for the purity of their water.
The problem is persistent and widespread. Public schools in Baltimore have switched to using only bottled water in 2007 because removing the lead plumbing in their buildings would have been unfeasible. A school district in New York temporarily to bottled water when water tests revealed elevated lead levels. The school district in Los Angeles committed $19.8 million to convert or remove 48,000 drinking fountains to get rid of a small lead threat.
Schools only have to test their water regularly if their water comes from a private well. Since the majority of schools use treated water from utilities, testing is not mandatory. Even though the water treatment centers test their water, almost all lead contamination occurs inside schools from lead in pipes, water-cooler coils and linings, and in leaded-metal fountains and taps.