Education News

HISD Tests Water For Lead At More Schools While Advocates Push For Higher Safety Standards

Texas law doesn’t require schools to test for lead in drinking water or require remediation.

 

HISD has tested elementary schools so far, but is starting to test all schools after some results came back above federal safety levels.
HISD has tested elementary schools so far, but is starting to test all schools after some results came back above federal safety levels.

After the water crisis hit Flint, Michigan, Houston school officials decided to test water at their own elementary schools.

HISD sampled water at drinking fountains and kitchen sinks. The results: water at 15 elementary schools had levels of lead above federal standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now HISD is testing water all its schools.

“We’re just trying to get a snapshot of where we stand on levels of lead in all our facilities now,” said Brian Busby, chief operating officer with HISD, speaking on Houston Matters.

Busby said that they’ve repaired most of the problem pipes as they follow federal guidelines to train, test and tell — known as the “Three T’s.”

But advocates say even more students are at risk.

Luke Metzger with Environment Texas pointed to tougher safety standard from doctors, namely the American Academy of Pediatrics

“We need much more aggressive action to protect our children from this potent neuro-toxin,” said Metzger, who also joined the discussion on Houston Matters.

“We think those certified filters need to be put on immediately. We think all schools need to be tested immediately.”

His group’s analysis found that 65 percent of Texas schools that have tested for lead have unsafe levels, using that medical standard. That includes schools in Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.

Metzger said that Texas gets a failing grade for water safety in schools because Texas law doesn’t require schools to test for lead in drinking water. Federal law only requires it if schools have their own water supply.

To find out more about HISD’s water testing program, check here.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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