“Infrastructure Week” has certainly been a running joke for the last few years, but we at SoundEarth Strategies and EHS-International are already hard at work on an important drinking water infrastructure study to support funding under the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill! Large spending packages like this one are never without controversy, and opinions about government spending are always wide ranging.
Activities are already underway applying sound science, engineering, and economic analyses to better identify and quantify the scope of upcoming infrastructure improvements. EHS-International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SoundEarth, is currently supporting Green Economics, LLC and the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in the development of cost estimates for remediation and mitigation of lead-contaminated drinking water fixtures at public, charter, and tribal schools throughout all of Washington State.
Issues Surrounding Lead in Drinking Water and K-12 Schools
Issues surrounding lead in drinking water in homes and communities, along with the particular risks to children, have garnered increased attention and scrutiny nationwide. However, children attending K-12 public schools also may be at risk of lead exposure from drinking water. School drinking water is a daily source of water for the more than 50 million children enrolled in public schools nationwide. School schedules typically include significant periods of limited use during time off, which can contribute to standing water in school plumbing systems. These inactive times can result in increased leaching of lead from aging pipes and fixtures into the water. Many schools have testing programs in place, but a 2018 U.S. Government Accounting Office report estimated that 41 percent of school districts nationwide had not tested for lead in their water over the prior two-year period. Of those that did test, approximately 37 percent found elevated lead in their water. As such, it is no surprise to us that among the infrastructure projects of interest here in Washington is the remediation of public-school water systems.
EHSI Lead in Drinking Water Data Analysis and Remediation Cost Estimation
The drinking water data we are analyzing is from large, medium, and small school districts over the most recent three-year period of lead contamination testing performed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and independent testing programs. The remediation cost estimates we are helping to develop address relevant technical assistance, design, parts and hardware, labor, contract administration, and project management expenses. Mitigation actions, treatments, and costs also are being considered.
Results Presented to the Washington State Legislature for Planning and Funding Allocation
The results of this work will allow the State of Washington to better plan for and allocate funds to protect the health and safety of our children statewide. Though planning projects like this are less visible elements of large infrastructure packages, they are critical for ensuring that projects are appropriately prioritized and funded. They are fundamental parts of SoundEarth’s and EHS-International’s continued efforts to help improve the environments in which we live and work.