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EPA Awards Mississippi State University Extension Service $618,000 in Funding to Test for Lead in School Drinking Water

03/05/2020
Contact Information: 
James Pinkney (region4press@epa.gov)
(404) 562-9183 (Direct), (404) 562-8400 (Main)

STARKVILLE, Miss. (March 5, 2020) —Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards $618,000 in grant funding to assist the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service with identifying sources of lead in drinking water in schools or childcare 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 Mississippi State University Extension Service protect children and families from lead exposure and invest in thoughtful, preventative actions."

“This partnership between the EPA and the Mississippi State University Extension Service to test drinking water used by schools and children’s programs in our state will help ensure our students have access to lead-free water,” said Mississippi Congressman Michael Guest. “This important work will help improve outcomes and support cleaner drinking water systems for Mississippi’s young people.”

The MSU Extension Service will use the funds to support testing of drinking water in schools and childcare programs. MSU Extension Service will also educate staff and students about the simple steps they can take to reduce exposure to lead through drinking water by using EPA's 3Ts guidance to reduce lead in drinking water, communicate, train, test and act.

“This project leverages the expertise of several partners to create a research-based program that is sustainable over the long-term for a greater positive impact on the state’s children,” said Jason Barrett, assistant professor in the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development and project leader. “Lead is harmful to human health and has a bigger impact on children than adults. The good news is that everyone can take simple steps to reduce lead exposure in drinking water, including running the faucet for a few seconds first thing in the morning to flush your pipes.”

Cooperating agencies include the Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory, University of Mississippi Sea Grant Law Center, and the Mississippi State Department of Health, including the Bureau of Public Water Supply, Child Care Licensure, and Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Program.

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 that creates or expands programs to test for lead in drinking water at schools and childcare 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.

Background:

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 childcare 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.

Learn more about this grant and EPA’s WIIN grant programs at https://www.epa.gov/safewater/grants

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