This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The School District of Philadelphia is reviving a program that will test for elevated lead levels in the drinking water at 40 city schools.
The project will take four months to complete and focus on schools at risk for dangerous concentrations of lead. Between 2000 and 2010 the District tested all of its drinking water outlets through the Safe Drinking Water Program, replacing or remediating those that tested positive for elevated lead.
“This retesting project will allow us to add another level of oversight and assurance to our water quality program,” said Fran Burns, the District’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “It is important that we reassure our students and families that the quality of our drinking water is safe and in compliance with federal and local regulations.”
The retesting program will cost about $250,000, according to Francine Locke, environmental director for the School District of Philadelphia
The old testing program came about after samples showed high lead levels at select Philadelphia schools. The District’s current testing push follows a swell of discussion about water safety and access.
Nationally, the conversation has focused on Flint, Michigan, where a cost-saving move exposed thousands to contaminated water. In Philadelphia, advocates and politicians have pushed the city to be more vigilant about lead testing and to ensure that students have regular access to water fountains in public schools.