New Washington State Legislation Takes Action to Address Lead in Drinking Water

On May 3, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 1139, a bill that requires the Washington Department of Health (DOH) to test drinking water outlets—including drinking fountains, bathroom sinks, and sinks used to prepare lunch—for lead contamination in public elementary and secondary schools built before 2016. Effective July 25, 2021, HB 1139 mandates the repair or replacement of fixtures where elevated lead is found (exceeding 5 parts per billion). Schools have six months to come up with a plan to do so, but they aren’t required to immediately shut off taps unless they test higher than 15 parts per billion. The bill provides $3 million to support this effort, plus an additional $1 million for the state to coordinate testing. The bill also requires that parents be notified when high lead levels are found.

Another key aspect of the bill requires the DOH to develop a technical guidance for reducing lead content in drinking water that is no less stringent than U.S. EPA guidelines. The bill mandated that the technical guidance must include “best practices for remediating elevated lead levels at drinking water outlets, including installing and maintaining filters certified by a body accredited by the American National Standards Institute.”

Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, sponsored the bill this year, marking the third year in a row that he has introduced a version of the bill.

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