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While most states have programs encouraging or requiring schools to test for lead in drinking water, funding for remediation lags. Given the significant federal investment to improve school water quality, state education leaders must ask, Where is the money going, and is enough left to remediate when schools find lead?

Based on its latest Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment of water utilities from 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the cost of eligible state infrastructure projects over a 20-year horizon at $625 billion, about 32 percent higher than the previous estimate from 2018.

In October 2021, a NASBE report outlined opportunities to allocate federal funds for testing and removal of lead in school drinking water. According to the report, 18 states require schools to test for lead, but schools still struggle to deal with the aftermath—securing funding for pipe replacement or filters as well as communicating test results and remediation strategies to the public. Only 15 states provide schools with some financial resources to enact mitigation.

While recent federal grants boosted funding for removal of lead from school drinking water, barriers to mitigation as well as communication hurdles underscore the need for more attention from state education policymakers. Despite these barriers, some states have managed to identify innovative funding streams, set up communication plans, and speedily implement remediation and filter programs for schools. …

Beyond Testing for Lead in Drinking Water: Implications for Funding

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