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Indiana House passes lead testing requirement for schools’ drinking water

Testing lead in school drinking water in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Protecting the water Hoosier students drink.

State Rep. Carolyn Jackson, a Democrat from Hammond, told News 8 that no state law requires the drinking water at Indiana schools to be tested for lead. That’s what she wants to change with a bill she’s proposed. If the drinking water at a school comes from the public supply, the taps and faucets would have to be tested for lead by 2023.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Karen Garza, a mother, said Thursday. “You really never know what’s in your water.”

Schools that have tested their water since 2016 would not have to test again.

“Lead is poisonous,” Jackson explained. “And it can cause so many, so many dangerous side effects.”

Those dangers include nervous system and brain damage or slowed growth and development in children, according to the U.S .Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under Jackson’s bill, there must be fewer than 15 parts per billion of lead in the drinking water.

“We now realize there are so many problems with lead in the water in the state,” Jackson explained. “In fact, it is so bad, in some situations, that it is frightening.”

Elevated levels of lead were previously detected in drinking water samples from 161 local schools or school facilities that participated in voluntary testing, according to a report published in January 2019 by the Marion County Public Health Department.

Timothy Williams, a retired teacher, said, “Anything that helps to help students learn in a better environment.”

On Thursday, House lawmakers signaled strong support for the bill.

“Glad that this is something we’re being proactive about and taking care of because we want to make sure our young people don’t have these types of development issues,” said state Rep. Earl Harris, a Democrat from East Chicago.

“It’s a very important act that will guarantee that all Hoosier schoolchildren are protected from the contamination of lead in the water,” said state Rep. Michael Aylesworth, a Republican from Hebron.

Jackson told News 8 the state has a $750,000 federal grant to pay for the test kits.

House lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the bill out of the House Thursday. It now heads to the Senate.