CARSON CITY — Nevada elementary schools with kindergarten or pre-kindergarten programs can have their water tested for lead thanks to a grant from the federal government.
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection said the testing program is voluntary and will be offered to 408 schools statewide.
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe exposure can cause coma, convulsion and death. Lower-level exposure is linked to cognitive and behavioral problems.
JoAnn Kittrell, spokeswoman for the agency, said Nevada received a grant of nearly $90,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About $30,000 is available for laboratory testing of school drinking water. Another $60,000 can be used to replace drinking fountains or kitchen fixtures with old lead or copper pipes if it’s found they contribute to elevated lead levels in water.
“Nevada’s naturally hard water helps prevent a lead problem in many areas and overall compliance with the lead action level is excellent,” Jennifer Carr, deputy administrator of NDEP, said in a statement.
“However, old plumbing and fixtures can potentially contribute lead and copper to drinking water,” she said. “This funding will help our schools gather important information about their drinking water.”
NDEP said it will contact each school district in the coming months to inform them about the program and seek their participation.
Kittrell added that while NDEP tests for contaminates in public water supplies, it has no regulatory authority after water leaves the distribution system.
The problem of lead in drinking water was thrust into the national spotlight by the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the city in 2014 changed its supply to the Flint River and didn’t properly treat the water. It ate away protective coatings in pipes and fixtures, exposing thousands of people to lead contamination.
Subsequent media investigations showed lead in water is a problem in many communities around the country.
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