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Maryland delegates pass tougher restrictions on lead in school water fountains amid positive tests

The Maryland House of Delegates on Monday unanimously passed legislation that would toughen restrictions on the amount of lead permitted in the water of school drinking fountains and fund remediation efforts.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Jared Solomon, a Montgomery County Democrat, would lower the amount of lead considered acceptable in drinking fountain water to the lowest detectable amount. The bill also establishes a state program to provide grants to local school systems to assist with replacing their pipes and water fountains. The annual fiscal impact of the bill is more than $1.7 million.

The bill passed 137-0.

“The goal with this legislation is simple — protect the health and safety of our children,” Solomon said in a statement. “This bill provides the resources needed to get lead out of our schools. I hope the Senate will act on this legislation and we can bring an end to this public health threat.”

Sen. Cory McCray of East Baltimore is the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, where the bill is pending in committee.

The legislation lowers the acceptable amount of lead to no more than 5 parts per billion, the Food and Drug Administration limit for lead in bottled water. The bill also allows schools to access the $30 million Healthy School Facility Fund to implement remediation efforts in drinking water outlets used for drinking or food preparation, including simple measures such as installation of water bottle filling stations.

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.

Lead poisoning can cause lasting learning and behavioral problems.

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