In September of 2018, the Howard County Public School System began to test schools for the presence of lead in water. Since then, lead has been found in the water of 18 schools in Howard County. In Anne Arundel County, at least 19 schools have contaminated water, and schools of other counties such as Montgomery and Baltimore are affected as well.
Cafeteria sinks, drinking fountains, and other faucets that supply drinking or cooking water have all been sampled for lead.
Hammond High School is one of the Howard County schools that was reported to have contaminated water, with two of their faucets exceeding 20 parts per billion, the health standard, in lead amounts. Olivia Banks, a junior at the school, recalls not being able to drink from faucets in the beginning of the school year.
“I didn’t even know that the water was contaminated,” the junior stated.
Banks mentioned that the school system should do a better job at informing students about the water problem.
“The students were really confused. There were signs over the water fountains to warn us to not drink from them, but no one knew why.”
As of Jan. 15, faucets in over 30 schools, including Mt. Hebron, have not been tested for contaminated water, as schools built before 1988 are the only ones that have been. Testing for lead in all Howard County schools is expected to finish by the year 2020.
“The fact that Howard County is one of the richest countries in this country and we still don’t even have clean water is very sad,” said Mt. Hebron senior Ria Kapoor.
“The Board of Education needs to allocate their money better. It seems like the school just bought a new cart of iPads, even though the school still has signs everywhere saying that our water may not be clean,” she further explained.
Contaminated water in schools have become a nationwide problem within the last few years. For the 2018-2019 school year, about two thirds of the public schools in Detroit have been reported to have elevated levels of lead in copper in the water. Schools in Portland, Oregon, have not been able to access clean water for two years, lead contamination has been a problem for New York City schools for a while, and about 61% of schools in Indiana are not allowing students to drink from the fountains for that same reason. As of Jan. 8, over 25 states in the United States have schools that are affected by polluted water.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, drinking lead contaminated water imposes several risks on children. Not only does it slow growth, but drinking contaminated water reportedly lowers IQ, increase the risk of behavior, hearing, and learning problems, as well as increasing the chance of a child getting anemia. The consumption of contaminated water also imposes several health risks in adults as well, such as high blood pressure.
“The children are the future, and their health needs to be treated with more importance,” Kapoor said.