EPA Awards Florida $1,752,000 in Funding to Test for Lead in School Drinking Water
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 17, 2020) —Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards $1,752,000 in grant funding to assist Florida with identifying sources of lead in drinking water in schools and child care facilities.
“Addressing childhood lead exposure from drinking water sources is a top EPA priority,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “EPA is proud to help the Florida Department of Environmental Protection protect children and families from lead exposure and invest in thoughtful, preventative actions."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will use the funds to support testing of drinking water in schools and child care programs, to ensure that children are not being exposed to lead in the water they consume. Additionally, DEP will communicate, train, test, and educate in facilities in high risk communities throughout the state.
“Florida is proud to undertake this program that will further the state’s goal of protecting some of our most vulnerable residents – our children,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This funding will allow DEP to strengthen our partnership with sister agencies and reduce potential lead exposure of students in our schools.”
“Safe drinking water is something that should be accessible to everyone," said Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25). “Whether through my support of the Everglades, my work on the Appropriations Committee, or passing critical water infrastructure legislation, I have long championed clean, reliable drinking water for the American people. This funding for Florida will pay dividends for years to come, and I am proud to have played a role in getting these funds for our communities. I thank Administrator Wheeler and the EPA for awarding these funds and look forward to their implementation in our schools and child care facilities.”
“When we’re able to send our kids back to school, the last thing parents should have to worry about is poison in the drinking water. Getting toxic lead chemicals out of our schools’ water supplies is a must, and we need to do more to stop it from getting contaminated in the first place,” said Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18). “I’m glad to see the EPA and Florida Department of Environmental Protection working together to get this done for our community.”
“No Floridian, especially our children, should have to worry about drinking water with unacceptable levels of lead,” said Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03). “I applaud the EPA for awarding this funding to specifically protect Florida’s children from lead exposure in their school drinking water and child care facilities.”
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our children. We’ve had cases in Tampa Bay of lead in drinking water, which represents a significant threat to the health of our children. These much needed funds will help our schools ensure safe, contaminant-free drinking water for students and staff,” said Congressman Bilirakis (FL-12).
“I am pleased that Florida is receiving vital funding to ensure lead-free drinking water in our schools,” said Congressman John Rutherford (FL-04). “Thank you to EPA Administrator Wheeler for his work on this important program. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support clean water initiatives and strengthen Florida’s water infrastructure.”
“I’m grateful to work with EPA and Florida DEP to continue to improve water quality throughout the state. The grant announcement today will significantly improve our ability to ensure our teachers and students throughout the state are receiving quality, clean drinking water,” said Congressman Neal Dunn (FL-02).
“Florida’s teachers work hard to prepare our children for the future. Let’s do our part. Lead poisoning can lead to developmental disorders and a lifetime of consequences, but it’s a problem that we have the ability to solve,” said Congresswoman Val Demings (FL-10). “This important grant will help us to identify places where children are at risk, and protect them.”
Under EPA’s new Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program, EPA has awarded $43.7 million in grants towards funding the implementation of testing for lead in drinking water. This funding is a resource which creates or expands programs to test for lead in drinking water at schools and child care programs in states and the District of Columbia. EPA’s 3Ts (Training, Testing, and Taking Action) for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools will be used by the grantee to assist schools in implementing lead in drinking water testing including identifying sources of lead such as fountains.
Under Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, in December 2018 EPA with its federal partners announced the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. Through the Action Plan, EPA is working to reduce lead exposures from multiple sources including: paint, ambient air, and soil and dust contamination. As part of the Action Plan, EPA proposed a rule in October 2019 that significantly improves the actions that water systems must take to reduce lead in the nation’s drinking water. This proposed rule represents the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991 and will better protect children in schools and child care facilities by requiring water systems, to take drinking water samples from the schools and child care facilities served by the system.
In addition, the agency is taking other significant actions to modernize aging water infrastructure and reduce exposure to lead, including:
- Financing drinking water infrastructure improvement projects through EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. In 2019, 11 of the 38 selected projects will reduce lead or emerging drinking water contaminants.
- Working with states, tribes, and territories to award $87 million in funding through EPA’s two new drinking water grant programs established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN)— the Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program and the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities grant program. EPA will announce funding details for WIIN’s third newly-created grant program dedicated to reducing lead in drinking water systems in early 2020.
- Providing more than $1 billion in 2019 in new federal grant funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) which can be used for loans that help drinking water systems improve distribution systems by removing lead service lines.
Learn more about this grant and EPA’s WIIN grant programs at https://www.epa.gov/safewater/grants