Ohio’s senior and most popular U.S. Senator was in Columbus Tuesday to advance a bill he’s co-sponsoring that would help schools and daycare centers cover the cost of testing for lead in drinking water.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, first elected in 2006 and again in 2012, has taken stock of the high lead levels found in the water of schools in Granville and Sebring and has his sights set on passing a bill that can prevent lead exposure leaving children with lifelong health issues, including difficulty learning or testing in school and behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
At a media event held at the Franklin County Health Department, that included Dr. Dan Good, Columbus City Schools Superintendent and CEO, Franklin County Health Commissioner Susan Tilgner and Licking County Health Commissioner Joe Ebel, Sen. Brown said, “No parent should have to worry that the water coming out of the school drinking fountain might be poisoning their children. There is a glaring gap in our lead testing rules – right now there’s no federal requirement for schools to test their water for lead contamination.”
Brown said schools often don’t have the resources or expertise needed to test for lead, yet “we know how dangerous lead is to young children whose brains are still developing.” Giving schools the resources they need, Brown said, will “make sure our children’s drinking water is safe from lead.”
There is currently no federal requirement for schools to test their water for lead contamination and many schools do not have the resources to conduct this testing, according to information from Sen. Brown’s office. The discovery of high lead levels in Granville last month highlights the need to test schools for lead in their drinking water, Brown said today.
Taking the lead on lead, Sen. Brown has cosponsored the “Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water Act of 2016,” legislation that would create a new grant program to help schools conduct regular testing. The bill would address this funding shortfall by creating a new $100 million federal grant program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help daycare centers and school districts test their drinking water for potential lead contamination, Mr. Brown’s office said in prepared remarks following the event.
Just last week, Sen. Brown advanced part of his bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where senators agreed to authorize $20 million for testing in schools in the Water Resources Development Act – a critical water infrastructure bill that is awaiting a vote by the Senate. That same committee also passed provisions sponsored by Sen. Brown to help communities like Flint, Michigan, and Sebring, Ohio, including a provision Ohio’s two-term senator introduced earlier this year, that requires the EPA to notify communities within 15 days when lead is discovered in drinking water.
Sen. Brown, whose name has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton should she win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, has been a strong supporter of federal funding to help prevent lead poisoning, monitor lead exposure in children, and eliminate lead hazards.
Sen. Brown, who already has Republicans lining up to take him on in 2018, was pleased that as part of the year-end appropriations bill passed in December, funding for federal programs at the CDC and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received funding. The CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program – the only federal program that provides funding for states and local health departments to conduct surveillance of where, how, and when children are exposed to lead – received $17 million, his office said. Meanwhile, HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes received $110 million and helps protect children from health and safety hazards related to lead-based paint and other home hazards.
Gov. Kasich and his EPA have so far managed to dodge any entanglements related to Sebring’s lead situation, even though it’s now known that his environmental regulators knew for months there was some lead in the town’s drinking water but did nothing to warn the public.
Mr. Kasich remains one of the three Republicans still running for president, but unlike Michigan Gov. Snyder, who remains a central figure in the tragedy in Flint and its lead-pipe water problems, Gov. Kasich has said his team was on top of the situation. To prove that, several administrative underlings were fired in fall out from lead in drinking water.