A statewide environmental advocacy group has given Pennsylvania a failing grade for its handling of lead in school drinking water.
Pennsylvania, according to a report released Tuesday by the nonprofit PennEnvironment, is among a group of 22 states that are "failing to protect children from lead in schools' drinking water."
The report was a follow-up to a 2017 analysis in which Pennyslvania also earned an "F."
"In the two years since ... releasing that report, Pennyslvania has not stepped up sufficiently to close these gaps and to fill the void," PennEnvironment clean water advocate Stephanie Wein said at a press conference Tuesday alongside state lawmakers and health advocates.
That's despite a recent push for public schools in the Commonwealth to test for lead in drinking water before the end of the 2018-19 school year.
A new state law urges the state's public and charter schools to perform tests, but schools can opt out of testing for financial reasons as long as they hold a public meeting to discuss the lead issue. The law also doesn't require schools to send letters home to notify parents of elevated levels of lead.
"Most parents that I talk to, they are shocked that most schools aren't compelled to test their drinking water for lead," Wein said. "And when schools do voluntarily test, acting in good faith for their students, best practices aren't always utilized because there aren't clear guidelines."
Dangerous lead levels, which can lead to numerous development and health issues in children, have been discovered in Lancaster County schools, many of which tested voluntarily. The report also mentions Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as Berks, Bucks, Butler and Montgomery counties.
At least 10 Lancaster County schools in five districts — Ephrata Area, Lancaster, Solanco, Penn Manor and Pequea Valley — have found elevated lead levels in their drinking water, according to LNP reports.
PennEnvironment recommends states and communities "get the lead out" of schools by replacing fountains, faucets and other parts containing lead, installing and maintaining lead filters, requiring annual lead testing, disclosing all testing information to the public and providing funding so schools can combat lead.
A bill proposed Tuesday by state Rep. Karen Boback (R-Lackawanna) would accomplish some of that, Wein said.
House Bill 930 would require schools to test water sources annually for lead and notify parents of the test results.
The proposal would not provide additional funding for schools.
If the state legislature would pass the bill, Pennsylvania's grade would rise to a B-minus, the report states.
In its analysis, PennEnvironment studied rules regarding lead in schools' drinking water in 32 states and rated them from zero to 200. It then assigned a letter grade to each state.
Pennsylvania earned a score of 33.