BOSTON — State Rep. Lori Ehrlich announced Wednesday the inclusion of $5 million of dedicated funds in the state supplementary budget for drinking water de-leading projects in Massachusetts schools.
Ehrlich said the move is a significant milestone in the ongoing work by public health advocates to protect students in the Commonwealth from lead-based neurological damage.
The funds are set aside from the Water Pollution Abatement Revolving Fund, were included in a section of the Fiscal 2019 Supplementary Budget.
Exposure to lead has been linked to a variety of health problems, including intellectual and behavioral disabilities, lowered IQ, stunted growth, hearing loss, and anemia, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
There is no safe level of lead exposure, according to the two agencies, particularly for children. Lead has been shown to bio-accumulate in the body over time with repeated exposure.
“Public awareness that lead causes permanent damage to a developing brain is already a well-known fact,” Ehrlich said. “Students should not risk damage to their brains in a place where their brains should only be learning.”
Ehrlich gave credit to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for making the matter a priority.
She also credited Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem and State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who worked hard with her.
“But there is still work to do,” she said.
“Momentum continues to build locally and nationally to get the lead out of school drinking water,” said Lovely. “I laud the leadership of Rep. Ehrlich and environmental advocacy groups on this issue, and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to appropriate funds to ensure that as our kids receive their education they can access water free of harmful contaminants.”
“This funding will allow us to immediately address elevated lead levels, underscoring the importance of investing in water infrastructure,” said Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg. “I look forward to our continued work with the Legislature to ensure children throughout Massachusetts have access to clean drinking water.”