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NC Schools Aren't Required To Test For Lead In Their Water, A New Bill Would Change That

Several communities in rural North Carolina struggle with water infrastructure maintenance.
Courtesy of Flickr user mycieau

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is rolling out a billthat would require school districts and child care facilities to conduct routine testing of their water fountains for possible contaminants. 

The proposal comes after Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties recently did voluntary tests of their water, and found elevated levels of lead in taps at dozens of schools.

Research from RTI International and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also found about 16 percent of child care facilities had at least one tap with lead levels above the EPA's action levels, the point at which the facility must inform the public and possibly replace pipes.

The advocacy group Environment America gave the state an "F" grade after reviewing North Carolina's lead testing policies.

Republican State Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury says the measure would fill a gap in water quality regulations.

"For the most part, our potable water is safe as it comes from the providers, because they are held to strict requirements and testing. The potential breakdown in safety comes when the water reaches its destination," Warren said.

The bill would require school districts to test water in at least five taps at each school, and would set aside $8 million to cover the costs. It does not apply to schools that were built or renovated after 1990.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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