Local News

School drinking water has improved slightly in Mass., but legislators say it’s not enough

Massachusetts earned a C- in a new report on lead contamination in school drinking water.

A new report on lead in Massachusetts school drinking water shows a slight improvement in recent years, but health and education leaders are pushing for better results. 

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center’s “Get the Lead Out” report graded all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., on how well they’ve protected students from lead-tainted water at school.

Massachusetts went from a D in the last report in 2019 to a C- in this year’s report. According to MASSPIRG Legislative Director Deirdre Cummings, the improved grade is due to the state’s “incremental policy steps” toward safer drinking water for students. 


Although Massachusetts law doesn’t require schools to prevent lead contamination in their water, the state earned points for a voluntary program —one of just a few nationwide — letting schools choose to have their water tested. Schools can remediate any tap where lead levels exceed one part per billion, and they can share test results online

Massachusetts also dodged a lower grade thanks to a $5 million allocation to pay to install filtered water stations, as well as other solutions.

According to MASSPIRG, most Massachusetts schools and preschools have fountains or faucets that contain lead, and wherever there is lead, there is a risk of water contamination.

Tests at Massachusetts schools confirmed lead in the water at 82 percent of the 58,414 faucets and fountains tested as of February 2023, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Despite the slight improvement over the past four years, physicians, parent groups, lawmakers, and other advocates say the state can make much more progress in protecting students from the harmful effects of lead-tainted water. 

“Massachusetts could move to the head of the class and earn an A, by passing the Act Ensuring Safe Drinking Water in Schools,” Cummings said in a press release.


A key measure of the bill is the installation of new water stations that replace old fountains and have filters to capture lead coming from a school’s plumbing system.

“We know that lead is harmful to children’s learning, their IQ, their behaviors, and their growth and development,” said Alan Woolf, MD, MPH, Associate Chief Medical Education Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital & Medical Director of its Pediatric Environmental Health Center. “We should eliminate all background sources of their possible exposure to lead, including drinking water fountains and bubblers at daycare centers, preschools and schools. This bill is an important piece of an ongoing effort to do just that to protect the health of the children of Massachusetts.”


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com