Legislation will require the installation of modern point-of-use filtration systems in every city school
PHILADELPHIA — Today, Councilmember Helen Gym introduced legislation to effectively eliminate lead from the drinking water in Philadelphia schools by requiring water fountains be equipped with modern, effective filtration systems. Building on legislation Gym led through Council to implement stricter testing requirements and expand water access, this bill will require the full transition of all Philadelphia schools to modern lead-free hydration systems.
“The only safe amount of lead in our schoolkids’ water is zero — and this legislation will make that a reality,” said Councilmember Helen Gym. “Every child deserves safe, clean drinking water, and the pandemic underscored the need for higher standards for public health. We want every student, every family, and every school community to feel confident in knowing the water they drink is lead free.”
This legislation will require water fountains to be equipped with highly-effective filters, certified to meet standards set by the American National Standards Institute and NSF International, by June 1, 2025. A push led by Councilmember Gym and student advocates in 2016 set the strictest lead thresholds in the country at 10 ppb and led to the installation of at least three modern hydration stations in every District school. Water quality testing overseen by the District on these hydration stations, which use the advanced filters that will be required, has confirmed their effectiveness in reducing lead to undetectable levels.
“My first legislative campaign on Council was to ensure and expand safe water access to every City school, and today, we’re setting a deadline to get this done,” said Gym. “I am excited to introduce this with majority support in our City Council, and in alignment with the District and their recent public commitment to fully transition to modern hydration stations.
“Moreover, our 2016 campaign to upgrade water fountains launched the District’s Green Schools initiative, and a renewed focus on the condition of school facilities,” Gym continued. “I hope that this spurs our District, city and state to take action on the deplorable physical condition of our schools and to boldly invest in modernizing all our school buildings.”.”
“Today’s legislation is a welcome and critical step forward: the expansion of the hydration station program is an effective solution to an historic problem,” said Jerry T. Jordan, President, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “And more broadly, this legislation is emblematic of a simple truth: where there is a will, there is a way. When we truly work to address the legacy crisis of toxic schools, we can make significant headway in addressing a crisis that would never be tolerated in a wealthier, whiter school district. The PFT will continue working shoulder to shoulder with Councilmember Gym and all members of the Fund Our Facilities Coalition to further effectuate meaningful action to eradicate not only lead in drinking water, but also to address the myriad other toxic conditions that persist.”
“Schools should be safe places where our kids go to learn, achieve, and grow up to be productive citizens in society,” stated David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Councilmember Gym’s legislation goes a long way towards helping achieve that goal, and making Philadelphia a national leader in the effort to address the threat of lead in school drinking water.”
“The science is clear, there is no safe level of lead in drinking water,” stated Emma Horst-Martz, PennPIRG Advocate. “If enacted, Councilmember Gym’s legislation will address the public health crisis of lead in public school drinking water once and for all. We are grateful for Councilmember Gym and the cosponsors’ leadership on this critical issue, and we encourage the rest of Council to pass the bill swiftly.”
“In 2016, Youth United for Change worked with Councilmember Gym to fight for young people’s access to clean water in our schools,” said Toni Mack, Executive Director of Youth United for Change. We won an increase to safe water sources for students but we know that nobody should go to schools with lead in their water. Councilmember Gym’s bill pushes this fight forward by ensuring all student’s water sources be safe, clean and lead-free.”
This legislation is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Cindy Bass (8th District), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Derek Green (At-Large), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Cherelle Parker (9th District), and Mark Squilla (1st District).