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Lead water testing bills receiving unanimous approval in Virginia House, Senate chambers

Bills requiring more transparency from school divisions in the reporting of high lead levels in drinking water sources are set for appropriations

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia lawmakers are unanimously approving bills that would require school divisions to report lead testing results to the Department of Health and notify parents of failed tests.

13News Now previously reported that 263 drinking water sources failed lead level tests across seven Hampton Roads school districts during each division's most recent - and limited - testing cycle.

RELATED: School drinking water tests: What we know about lead levels

Previously, reporting requirements for school divisions were lax, only recommending that each district prioritize testing of schools built before 1986. At the state level, there was no identified "unacceptable" level for lead results.

Virginia Beach delegate Alex Askew, among others, has introduced legislation that requires the reporting of lead testing results, increases transparency for families, and sets a maximum acceptable lead level of 10 parts per billion for school drinking sources.

Additional legislation receiving full support in both houses would require lead testing and reporting in early childcare and preschool programs across the state.

RELATED: New test results show more 'unacceptable' lead levels in Hampton Roads schools drinking water

The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets an "actionable level" of 15 ppb for lead levels in drinking water. The Hampton Roads school districts previously used this level as their "acceptable" standard when reviewing lead test results.

Although, water advocates said any amount of lead in school drinking water is potentially dangerous.

"We don't want to wait for the next generation to come along to fix the problem," said Elin Betanzo of Safe Water Engineering. "If we see any lead in the water, we want to take care of it now."

In response to our reporting, multiple Hampton Roads school districts promised additional rounds of testing before the 2020-2021 school year. Virginia Beach City Public School leaders said they're implementing a flushing program to clear out all drinking and food preparation sources over the summer.

RELATED: Virginia Beach City Public Schools updates lead drinking water testing schedule

Betanzo said flushing is just a band-aid on a bigger problem. She recommends more comprehensive solutions like pipe and fixture replacements, or at least filters on water sources.

On Monday, a Senate subcommittee unanimously passed on SB 392 to Appropriations.