News Release

Minnesota gets an ‘F’ for efforts to address lead in school drinking water

New Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center study assesses whether state is improving on this pressing issue
For Immediate Release

St. Paul, MN – Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center gave Minnesota an "F" today for addressing the problem, according to a new national report.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Minnesota is still not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Tim Schaefer, State Director of Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center. “We need policies that actually get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools.”

As more Minnesota schools test their water, following new testing requirements that went into effect in July 2018, they are finding lead, frequently in levels that pose a clear threat to human health. Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center’s research shows that most schools in Minnesota are setting action levels at 20 parts per billion, about 20 times higher than the level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most schools and pre-schools still have fountains or faucets that contain lead, and wherever there is lead, there is a risk of water contamination.  

Nevertheless, current state law does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. While Minnesota now requires testing in schools at least once every five years, state law doesn’t specify an action level for removing dangerous lead pipes, replacing water fountains with lead fixtures, or installing much needed filters. In Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center’s comparison of 31 states, these shortcomings gave Minnesota an "F".

“Do we really want to wait for more tests to show that our kids have been drinking lead?” asked Schaefer. “It’s time to get the lead out.”

Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. []