This week students in Butler County, Pennsylvania elementary schools were given bottled water and the schools were closed for two days due to elevated levels of lead and copper in the drinking water. Butler County’s population is approximately 183,000 and is located north of Pittsburgh, PA. Butler Area has 10 schools, most of which get their drinking water from wells and are required to be tested under Lead and Copper Rule. In fact the water was tested in August 2016 and “the district said its maintenance director received test results showing lead and copper levels in the water significantly exceeded “acceptable water standards”” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article Butler County School Closed After Increased Lead Levels Found in Water Supply dated January 24, 2017. Students were known to be consuming high lead levels in their school’s drinking water for at least five months!
Lead in school drinking water is a national problem that not only affects urban schools that receive water from public water sources but also rural schools getting their water from wells. What I find most appalling about this situation is the time it took for the school district to respond to the water tests. The superintendent claims that he did not receive the water tests and did not know there was a problem; however, school administrators must be aware of this environmental hazard and be proactive about testing and addressing lead in school drinking water. Unfortunately, in this case, young children were exposed to lead for over five months and the school was forced to put students on bottled water and close for two days. This was a completely preventable situation and something that FACT seeks to prevent through education and advocacy. Parents must be educated and advocate for their children; communities must be engaged and aware that students in their schools may be drinking poison.