Maryland schools have a documented problem with lead in drinking water, but a recent report from a local consumer group found the state has made strides toward addressing the issue.
The second edition of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group’s “Get The Lead Out” study, released Thursday,****** gave Maryland a grade of ‘C’ for its efforts to address the presence of lead in school drinking water. The grade was an improvement from Maryland’s ‘F’ grade in 2017, according to the group.
The study assigned grades to states based on several criteria, including the strictness of lead standards, the rigor of testing protocols and transparency in communicating with the public.
Among Maryland’s improvements identified in the study was a state law passed in 2017, which now requires testing for all taps in public and private schools across the state, the Public Interest Research Group said in a news release.
State tests this year found elevated levels of lead in water from 519 school drinking water fountains or sinks across the state, including 229 in Montgomery County, 67 in St. Mary’s County, 58 in Anne Arundel County, 55 in Baltimore County and 48 in Howard County. Most Baltimore City schools have banned drinking out of water fountains or sinks for the past decade due to lead contamination.
Scientists and medical experts say no amount of lead is considered safe for humans and that children are particularly susceptible to the health and cognitive problems caused by the accumulation of the harmful metal in the blood stream.
Though Maryland’s grade improved, the group that released the study said the state is still in need of improvement.
Several members of the Maryland General Assembly recently introduced legislation that seeks to require remediation when drinking water is found to have lead at 5 parts per billion — as opposed to the state’s current standard of 20 parts per billion — and to give schools access to the $30 million Healthy School Facility Fund to assist with paying for remediation efforts.
The House of Delegates passed the bill last week with an unanimous vote.
"I applaud the progress Maryland has made to address lead in our schools' drinking water since 2017, but it doesn't go far enough," said Marietta English, Baltimore Teachers Union president, in a release. “This is a no-brainer, we must work harder and faster to eliminate lead from our school faucets. There is no acceptable excuse for our students, educators, paraprofessionals and all of those who spend time in our schools to be at risk of being poisoned by lead."
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.