Soon-to-be Virginia law will require school systems to test for lead


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In just a few weeks, a law in Virginia will go into effect requiring school systems to test for lead in water in schools built prior to 1986 and identified as high priority by the EPA.

Doctors say catching signs of lead early is key.

“We worry about the long-term effects of low doses of lead,” said Dr. David Arkin with Glen Allen Pediatrics. “There’s no safe level of lead that you can ingest.”

Arkin says children are extremely vulnerable to lead.

“And your body stores it, so if you get a little bit a time it can add up to a big amount,” Arkin explained.

He says the long-term affects are especially damaging.

“It causes brain damage,” Arkin said. “You lose developmental abilities. You’re not as smart.”

Senator Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William County, says he came up with the bill after deciding to test for lead in several buildings where he works in Alexandria.

“This is an important new step to identify clean water in our schools,” he said. “And we found over a dozen results of elevated lead in the water that we didn’t expect.”

We checked with local school systems.

Henirco sent us this statement:

“We performed water testing in April 2016 on 48 schools constructed prior to 1978. All schools tested below the action levels for lead and copper. At the time, we were monitoring the events in Flint, Michigan, and decided to be proactive and proceed with a testing update, even though Virginia school divisions were not required to do so. After the initial 48, we tested the remaining schools and all have tested below the action levels as well. We continue to feel this has put us ahead of the curve in regard to student safety, which is our highest priority.”

Richmond sent us this statement:

“In looking at the summary of the legislation and in reviewing it with our Environmental Company, there is some question regarding the sources identified by the EPA as high priority.  At this time, it does not appear that there is a list of high priority sites. The estimated cost of conducting the test is $1,000 to $2,000 per site, depending on the number of potable water locations in the school building that will need to be tested.  Based on 48 school sites and an average of $1,500 per site our one time cost would be $72,000.  Per the proposed bill, this amount could be higher based on the number of tests that would need to be conducted per the Virginia Department of Health rules.  Today this level of testing is not included in our budget.”

Chesterfield sent us this statement:

For our school division, we are already in compliance. We have tested all schools built in 1987 or prior according to protocols recommended by the EPA (and all potable water samples tested were below 20 parts per billion).

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