Lead is a contaminant that's particularly dangerous for children, especially kids younger than 6. It's associated with learning disabilities and behavioral issues.
The Washington Department of Health has been testing water fixtures in schools for high levels of lead, and the capital budget approved by the Legislature includes funds for schools to replace lead-contaminated drinking fixtures.
Tyler Muench, policy and outreach coordinator with the state superintendent's school facilities division, said districts will be able to apply for what's called the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools grant.
“The grant is designed to help schools better children’s health and fitness, and obviously, if you have a lead-contaminated drinking fountain, you want to get that replaced,” Muench said.
The Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools grant program received $3 million from the Legislature, less than half what the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction requested. OSPI will distribute the funds, and Muench said districts are limited to receiving a maximum of $200,000. The grant is not only for lead remediation, but also for other capital equipment that can help improve kids' health. He said OSPI anticipates starting to accept applications for the grant program next month.
The Seattle Times recently did an investigation of lead levels in Seattle Public Schools water fixtures, and found that some were above the school district's standard.
Tim Robinson, a spokesman for the Seattle school district, said crews are replacing 90 water fixtures and that will bring all of them below the district's standard of 10 parts per billion, which is a more stringent requirement than the one set by the Environmental Protection Agency.