Pennsylvania lawmakers lead introduction of bipartisan bill removing lead in Pa. schools’ drinking water

State Reps. Roni Green and Tarik Khan, both D-Phila., and other state representatives will circulate a co-sponsorship memo next week for a bipartisan House bill addressing lead contamination in drinking water in Pennsylvania schools.  

They are being joined by state Reps. Abby Major, R-Armstrong/Westmoreland; Jim Haddock, D-Lackawanna/Luzerne; Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny/Washington; and Joe Hogan, R-Bucks, as prime co-sponsors of this bill. 

“This legislation corrects a longstanding problem within our schools across the commonwealth,” Green said. “Children have a right to be in a safe environment, have clean drinking water, and maximize their learning journey free from harm and hazardous particles. It’s unacceptable to still have children being exposed to lead while in school. Our bill ensures that all Pennsylvania children’s rights are respected and that our children can be safe from lead exposure in school.” 

Green pointed out that this legislation is like a bill passed last year by the Philadelphia City Council and signed into law. This legislation would require the replacement of old drinking fountains with lead-filtering water stations by 2025 and direct funding to help school districts achieve this goal.  

The other sponsors noted their support for the bill. 

“As a state representative, one of my top priorities is keeping the children in my community safe,” Haddock said. “This bill will help schools in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties protect our students from lead exposure and helps ensure that we are protecting children from these dangerous substances.”  

Ortitay added, “As a parent of a young child, one of our top priorities should be ensuring every child has a safe environment to learn in. Water is a basic necessity of life, and children should have access to potable water not only to drink but also to prepare meals."  

Khan noted his work as a nurse practitioner in dealing with lead exposure in children.   

“We know the devastating toll that lead exposure can cause in young children. And we know that any consumption of lead in children is unsafe. As a nurse practitioner, by the time my two-year-old patients are coming for their annual checkup, I’m already checking their lead level for a second time,” Khan said. “No kid should be exposed to toxic lead while in school. Our bipartisan legislation addresses this problem head-on and in a responsible way.” 

This House bill is a companion to a bipartisan Senate Bill, SB 986, sponsored by state Sens. Devlin Robinson, R-Allegheny, John Kane, D- Chester/Delaware, and Art Haywood, D- Phila./Montgomery. 

Hogan concurred with the other representatives.  

“Not only should every kid have the best teachers possible, but they should also have a healthy and safe environment to learn in,” Hogan said. “This legislation is an economical solution to protect our children by making sure they have safe, clean drinking water while in the classroom. I look forward to working with anyone to make our schools safer and the best learning environment possible.” 

Recent reports show that 91% of Pennsylvania school districts tested positive for lead. The adverse effects on those exposed to lead under the age of 18 include:  

  1. Brain and nervous system damage. 
  2. Physical growth delays. 
  3. Learning and behavior problems. 

Lead exposure can also lead to lower IQ and speech and hearing impairments. 

If signed into law, Haddock said the legislation would make Pennsylvania a national leader in the fight against lead in school drinking water.