Gov. Tom Wolf recently informed school and child care programs in Pennsylvania of the Voluntary Lead in Child Care and School Drinking Water Testing Program, which will provide $1.74 million from a federal grant for testing lead in drinking water.
Wolf first announced the funding from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act in February 2020 as a component of his Lead-Free Pennsylvania plan to address lead across the commonwealth. Earlier this week, the departments of Education and Human Services sent direct communications to eligible facilities to advise them of the availability of funding and how to access it.
“Testing the water of thousands of child care centers and schools will give us a benchmark of the work we need to do next for removing lead from water and protecting our children,” said Wolf.
The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority launched the Pennsylvania Voluntary Lead in Child Care and School Drinking Water Testing Program at leadfree.pa.gov. Eligible schools and child cares can receive free water lead testing and related training and technical support.
Wolf’s Lead-Free PA initiative was announced in August 2019 to create a lead-free Pennsylvania by calling on the legislature to increase access to blood testing for children in alignment with federal guidelines, increasing local response efforts, and planning for training or more certified lead abatement professionals.
That announcement was billed as “just the start” of a plan for a lead-free Pennsylvania and this recent communication to schools and child care facilities is a continuation of the governor’s plan.
The grant comes through the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, specifically Section 1459B of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which authorizes grant funding for reducing lead in drinking water. The EPA funding will cover 100 percent of the cost of water testing, however, the governor recently urged the legislature to take action to provide subsequent remediation funding by amending the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to allow for abatement of hazardous substances like lead and asbestos in schools. Funding for abatement is essential for schools and child care facilities that discover lead in their drinking water through the use of this program.
“To build a better, healthier Pennsylvania, we need to know the extent of problems such as lead in drinking water, so it is tremendous to see these grants now available,” said Wolf. “I encourage our child care centers and schools to avail themselves of this free program.”
Visit leadfree.pa.gov for more information on the program and how to enroll.