MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont state officials now say they will test for lead levels in the drinking water at every school by the end of the year, after originally planning to do it by 2022.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott this week asked the Legislature for $1.3 million for the testing, Vermont Public Radio reported.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine told the Senate Education Committee the state would work with outside labs and consider hiring more staff to complete the work before year's end. The committee is considering a bill that would create guidelines for the testing.
"We envision this program including all of the schools in Vermont. Everyone has an equal opportunity to have lead-free drinking water within a time frame that is reasonable," Levine said.
The statewide tests were prompted by the results of a pilot program that found five schools had elevated lead levels, officials said. When the Health Department tested the water at 16 schools during the pilot, it found traces of lead in every school and enough lead in the water in five schools to require immediate action.
"We were all alarmed by the results," Committee Chairman Sen. Phil Baruth said. "Lead is a highly toxic metal, especially for kids, and this is the highest priority for this committee."
The Department of Health has set a threshold of 15 parts per billion, the level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, while the American Academy of Pediatrics has set a level of one part per billion.
The committee likely will come up with a compromise, Baruth said.
Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net