98% Of Schools And Child Centers Finish Mandated Lead Fixes

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Mandatory testing for lead in drinking water — and repairs to keep that water safe — has been completed at 98% of the Vermont’s schools and child care centers, the state Health Department said Wednesday.

Vermont passed a law in 2019 requiring schools and child care facilities to test their drinking and cooking water for lead, a highly toxic metal.

One in every five taps had elevated lead levels, out of the more than 15,000 taps tested between June 2019 and December 2021. Lead exposure can slow children’s growth, impair development and learning, and cause behavioral problems.

Lead was more frequently found in water fixtures, rather than plumbing, which made fixes both easier and less expensive. The state provided funding to reimburse schools and child care centers for remediation costs, 90% of which cost less than $500.

“We take very seriously our responsibility to protect and promote the health and safety of children in early care and education programs,” said Commissioner Sean Brown of the Agency of Human Services’ Child Development Division. “Collaborative efforts like this help ensure that children in Vermont have positive, safe learning environments in which they can grow and develop.”

Because lead can leach into drinking water from older plumbing and fixtures, Vermont required schools and child care facilities to test all the taps and take corrective action if lead levels were found at or above the state action level of 4 parts per billion, and to repeat the testing every three years.