Drinking water quality in schools is a popular issue in the Legislature this year, with a significant amount of bills introduced in this subject area. The objective of these bills, which CASH supports, is to ensure access to high quality, lead free drinking and cooking water in schools. CASH is concerned not about this worthy goal, but rather about the potential increase in cost and administrative burden for schools. The following are the most significant water quality bills:
- AB 885 (Rubio) – Requires all schools to retrofit and maintain water filters on all drinking and kitchen plumbing, test water for lead, create an inventory of plumbing, and replace plumbing that is found to be the source of exceeding the lead threshold (15 ppm/USEPA standard). CASH currently opposes the bill, but is working with the author and other stakeholders to find a more practical approach that still protects students from lead. The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee and the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. In testimony, CASH pointed out the significant potential cost for school districts if lead testing demonstrates a need to replace plumbing, in addition to the cost and complication of maintaining filters. AB 885 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. (HELD IN COMMITTEE)
- AB 746 (Gonzalez-Fletcher) – This bill is very similar to AB 885. It is our understanding that the two bills will be merged into a single bill going forward. CASH’s concerns are the same as with AB 885.
- AB 210 (Leyva) – Requires that schools that do not meet the USEPA standard for lead close to drinking water sources provide alternative drinking water sources, prohibits water that does not meet USEPA standards from being provided at a school facility, and provides a priority for projects that have been tested and not do not meet the USEPA standard submitted to the California Safe Drinking Water Act ($9.5 million Water Board grant program). CASH views the approach taken in AB 210 as a more workable approach and has not yet taken a position on this bill.