Cape Elizabeth senator's school water bill fails in House

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Emergency legislation to strengthen requirements for water testing in schools failed by two votes in the House of Representatives on April 18. 

The bill – proposed by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth – would have required all schools to test their drinking and cooking water for lead contamination.

Current law only requires water testing in schools that do not use public water sources. 

Although the Senate voted 32-3 on April 12 to enact the bill, it failed the two-thirds majority vote in the House – or 101 affirmative votes – as required by the state Constitution for emergency legislation. On Wednesday, 99 representatives voted in favor and 50 against.

Millet said she is “exploring ways to keep the bill alive,” although the legislative session was scheduled to end Thursday. 

“Lead poisoning can have disastrous, long-lasting effects on children, and our students shouldn’t have to fear exposure when they’re at school to learn and grow,” she said in a prepared statement.

A February 2017 report from Environment Maine graded states for their work to protect children from lead poisoning at school. Maine, along with 11 other states, received an “F.”

The report notes that Maine has “particularly corrosive water, which can dissolve lead from plumbing systems” and recommends testing all water sources used for drinking and cooking on a yearly-basis.

In Yarmouth in 2016, high levels of lead were detected in Yarmouth Elementary School and Frank Harrison Middle School. 

Of the 50 faucets and water bubblers tested, five at HMS and 13 at YES had lead levels exceeding 15 parts per billion, which is the safety standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The contamination was attributed to the faucets. 

At the time, Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said he was unsure when Yarmouth’s water had last been tested. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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