A water main break in the city of Montpelier threw the Statehouse and many city homes into a boil water order for a few days this week. We were the lucky ones as many homes, businesses, and the National Life Building had no water at all. That building, which looms large over the city of Montpelier and can’t be missed as one approaches the city on I-89 from the south, houses more than 750 workers. They were sent home since no water with a crowd like that is trouble! In the Statehouse, it seemed like everyone thought they needed a drink of water when they found out they couldn’t have one. They also discovered that some bottled water has lead in it when we took up the following bills.
It seemed fitting that water was the topic in several committees this week as Senate Education took testimony on S-40, which speaks to Lead in Drinking Water of Schools and Child Care Facilities. In the Appropriations Committee, this matter was also on the agenda due to the potential costs for testing all faucets, possibly pipes, and remediation if needed.
Fifteen schools were part of pilot test and lead over the Environmental Protection Level of 15 parts per billion for public drinking water was found in some of the schools, and in some only in water from a single faucet. This could be due to lead in old solder that was used on the fixtures. Remediation replacing each tap could run $300 to $500 including labor. It would also be possible to simply shut off a fountain or faucet if there were other safe water faucets in the building.
All schools and childcare facilities are to be tested. There are 422 schools in Vermont including private and independent schools that are also part of the mix. The plan would be for schools to collect the samples and the state will pay for the testing. The Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the Health Dept. would work with the schools to ensure the testing and collection is done correctly. There would need to be two samples per tap and the estimated shipping and analysis per tap cost is $20.
Brian Redmond, a sanitary engineer at DEC is already involved in this matter, but additional staff will be needed to accomplish all of this in a year, which is the goal the governor has set. A preliminary estimate of the cost is $1,300,000 without the remediation expenses. The costs incurred by a school district or supervisory union when sampling drinking water outlets, implementing lead remediation, or retesting drinking water would not be included in the calculation for excess spending per S-40 as proposed. The bill still needs to pass both the House and the Senate.
Consider visiting your Statehouse and listen to testimony in the committees. Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or the Statehouse at 1-800-322-5616 or email@example.com. I am able to read all of your emails and appreciate you sending them, however the volume received makes it impossible to respond to all of them.
Sen. Alice Nitka