July 17, 2018

After Alarming Federal Report Shows Less than Half of Schools Even Test for Lead in Water, Duckworth Reiterates Call to Protect Children from Contaminated Drinking Water


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Following today’s release of the United States Government Accountability Office report that found less than half of school districts nationwide tested for lead in their schools’ drinking water in 2016 and 2017 – and of the 43 percent of school districts tested, 37 percent found elevated lead levels – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who has already introduced a bill to address this issue, released the following statement:

“When families send their children to school, they should not have to worry about the school’s drinking water being contaminated with a dangerous neurotoxin like lead,” Duckworth said. “The threat of contaminated water is a public health crisis, and this report underscores the need for mandatory lead testing in all schools across the nation. Our children deserve better. That’s why I introduced the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act with Senator Booker to require periodic testing of drinking water in schools. I will keep working to ensure every family in America – no matter where they live – has access to clean and safe drinking water.”

The GAO conducted its report after receiving several separate requests on the issue from six House and Senate Democrats, including Senate HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL). Based on those requests, the GAO reviewed state and school district practices for lead testing and remediation efforts to protect children from exposure to lead in school drinking water.

“It is unacceptable that even one child is attending a school with elevated levels of lead—and even more unacceptable that a majority of schools don’t even know if their students are at risk,” Murray said. “I’m proud of Senator Duckworth’s leadership to address this issue, and I’m calling on all my colleagues to support her legislation because—and this shouldn’t have to be said—every child should be able to learn in an environment free of toxins and poisons.”

Duckworth has been outspoken about the need to address failures in our public water systems and has introduced several pieces of legislation on lead in America's drinking water. In 2017, Duckworth and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act, which would ensure periodic testing for lead contamination in schools, while also providing schools with additional resources to monitor lead levels and replace outdated water infrastructure systems. Just last week, Duckworth joined U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) to introduce the Containment and Lead Electronic Accounting and Reporting Requirements (CLEARR) for Drinking Water Act, which would authorize more than $1 billion in federal funding to help small and disadvantaged communities replace contaminated water infrastructure to comply with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. She also introduced her new Recognizing the Environmental Gains in Overcoming Negligence (REGION) Act to prevent the closure of regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offices, which would protect thousands of jobs while supporting efforts to ensure clean drinking water for children.

Duckworth has also been critical of the Trump Administration's efforts to roll back drinking water protections and vocal about the need to strengthen initiatives to prevent lead contamination.