AUSTIN - New data obtained by Environment Texas from the Austin Independent School District (AISD) shows lead has been found in the drinking water of five more Austin schools. The new data follows the revelation last September of nine schools and facilities which tested positive for the toxic heavy metal. Environment Texas applauded the district's commitment to install filters or replace water fountains, but called for additional testing, greater transparency and full remediation.
"Unfortunately, there's no law that requires schools to get the lead out, so we appreciate Austin ISD proactively testing and replacing water fountains with lead in the water," said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas. "This new data confirm that lead isn't an isolated problem, however, and we need to act expeditiously to test and remediate all schools."
Lead has newly been discovered at Boone & Patton Elementary, Bailey and Covington Middle, and Lanier High School. Last year, testing found lead in the drinking water of Ridgetop, Sanchez, Widén, Zavala, Pleasant Hill, and Barrington elementary schools, the Burger Activity Center, Becker House and the Noack Sports Complex. The district is installing filters or replacing the water fountains at all the schools.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “even at half the levels previously considered safe, growing evidence shows a child’s exposure to lead can cause irreversible cognitive and behavioral problems…including lower IQ scores and academic performance, inattention, impulsivity, aggression and hyperactivity.”
After Environment Texas drew attention to the issue last September, AISD committed to test all the water fountains at 1/3 of schools each year, testing every fountain over the course of three years. The new data show AISD has thus far tested just 19% of schools and facilities. AISD has not been posted the new test results to their website or alerted parents. AISD open records officials also told Environment Texas it would take up to five months to comply with the non-profit’s request for internal communications about the issue.
Environment Texas called on AISD to:
- get the latest testing data up on their website right away and let parents know it's there.
- test every water fountain in every school this summer before kids return to classes
- immediately comply with the organization’s open records request for copies of internal communications about lead testing
- identify pipes, plumbing, fountains and/or fixtures that contain lead and come up with plan to remove them. While filters are an important short-term fix, Environment Texas said replacing all lead-bearing parts is the most effective, permanent solution to prevent contamination of the water our children drink at school.
School districts are largely left to address lead contamination on their own, as current state law does little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. There is currently no federal or state law that requires Texas schools to take action when there is elevated levels of lead in the drinking water. Last year, Environment Texas gave Texas a grade of F in addressing this threat to children’s health.