Ohio schools concerned over lead risk could get state help

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new grant program that would provide $12 million to replace lead-contaminated plumbing fixtures that can put schools’ water supplies at risk is part of recent state legislation.

The grant program included in the measure approved Wednesday and awaiting the governor’s signature provides more money for infrastructure repairs and the cost of drinking-water tests, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1Rx5fOA ). Any private or public school building built before 1990 could qualify for a grant.

The grants would cover up to $15,000 in material costs per building provided through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. The Ohio Water Development Authority also plans to provide funds to help schools identify outdated, lead-containing water fixtures. The agencies will work with the state Environmental Protection Agency to develop guidelines for grants.

It would be retroactively effective as of Jan. 1, allowing schools tested for lead any time this year to be reimbursed through the program.

Granville Superintendent Jeff Brown said the grant program is great news for his district, which will spend more than $30,000 replacing or repairing every drinking fountain in its four aging school buildings this year.

“Our primary concern is providing a safe learning environment for our students,” Brown said. “Schools operate on lean budgets, and sometimes unanticipated costs can throw a wrench into your long-term projects. But you don’t want cost to become a reason to not assess the safety of your buildings.”

Some aging buildings are outfitted with plumbing containing lead, which can leach into otherwise clean water supplies, said state EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer. Lead pipes were banned three decades ago, but many schools built before then still have them.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com