Friday, September 25, 2009

Schools in every state violate drinking-water rules

Roughly one in five schools supplied by a water well has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act in the past decade, and such schools are the largest violators of drinking water standards, The Associated Press reports from Environmental Protection Agency data. Better check to see if any are in your area.

Eight to 11 percent of U.S schools are supplied with water from their own wells. Schools with public water have also violated the standards. "In California's farm belt, wells at some schools are so tainted with pesticides that students have taken to stuffing their backpacks with bottled water for fear of getting sick from the drinking fountain," AP reports.

EPA says a recent spike in violations can be largely attributed to stricter standards. "There's a different risk for kids," Cynthia Dougherty, head of the EPA's Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, told AP. EPA cannot require testing at all schools and mainly provides environmental guidance.

Schools with unsafe drinking water make up only a small percentage of the country's 132,500 schools, AP reports. Water supplies violated standards in about 100 school districts and 2,250 schools with well water. Those schools had 5,500 separate violations between 1998 and 2008 and 577 in 2008, up from 59 in 1998. California led states with 612 violations during the period, followed by Ohio (451), Maine (417), Connecticut (318) and Indiana (289). Half the violators in California were repeat offenders, including one elementary school that had been cited 20 times.

Older schools on public water systems also were more likely to violate the standard due to the prevalence of lead piping. "There is just no excuse for this. Period," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told AP. "We want to make sure that we fix this problem in a way that it will never happen again, and we can ensure parents that their children will be safe." (Read more)

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