Florida Senate committee passes bill to protect children from lead in school drinking water

For Immediate Release

Tallahassee, FL -- In a big step forward for children’s health, Florida’s Senate Committee on Education unanimously passed Senate Bill 66 this week, which requires each district with schools built before 1986 to install filters that reduce lead in drinking water. The bill heads next to the state Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Senate Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate floor.

Environment Florida thanks Sens. Janet Cruz, Manny Diaz, Bill Montford, Dennis Baxley, Lori Berman, David Simmons, Keith Perry, and Kelli Stargel for supporting the health of Florida’s children.

Several physicians, parents, and environmental organizations also testified in support of the bill including Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida. You can see the full testimony here, as well as more coverage here.

In response, Environment Florida director Jennifer Rubiello, who testified in support of the bill, released the following statement:

“Most states are failing to protect children from lead in schools’ drinking water, and Florida is no exception. We recently analyzed the policies in 32 states for protecting children from lead exposure. Unfortunately, Florida earned an F for failing to have any policies on the books requiring testing or proactively preventing lead contamination in school or daycare drinking water.

“Few school systems across our state have done significant testing for lead in drinking water, and where they have tested, they have found unsettling results.

For example, since the school district in Hillsborough County started lead testing last year, 54 schools have tested above 15 parts per billion (ppb), the federal standard for action. In one elementary school last year, they found two water fountains at the school tested nearly four and five times above that federal standard (50 and 73 ppb). In addition, four out of five Polk County schools in Florida showed elevated levels of lead.

And that is likely just the tip of the iceberg. The reality is there is no safe level of lead, especially for children.

While permanently ensuring safe drinking water for our children will require replacing lead-bearing parts, schools can immediately start reducing the threat of lead contamination in our children’s water. They should install filters certified to remove lead on faucets and fountains used for cooking and drinking at school. That is exactly what SB66 does.

We’re thankful for Senator Cruz and cosponsors of Senate Bill 66 for tackling this issue and moving this conversation forward. There isn’t a dollar figure you can put on the health of our state’s children. Just one tap with high lead in a kindergarten or elementary school is unacceptable.”