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Nonprofit Law Group Urges Lead-Testing Of School Drinking Water

Arise Academy in Dayton is now closed, and former leaders of the school have been convicted of federal crimes.
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Research from the nonprofit Advocates for Basic Legal Equality indicates that few schools in Montgomery County are testing their drinking water for lead. Following school-district surveys conducted in March and July, the agency is urging parents to contact their schools to ask whether they test for lead.

ABLE Law surveyed 54 Montgomery County schools and school districts about lead testing in 2017. Attorney Ellis Jacobs says the group also gave schools information on the dangers of lead poisoning.


Lead is linked to serious health problems in children, including brain, liver or kidney damage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The government agency cautions exposure to even low lead levels can cause hearing loss, low IQ and poor classroom performance.


“Children are especially affected by lead poisoning, and only eight schools or school districts returned the survey indicating they had tested for lead,” Jacobs says.


Jacobs says the group gave schools details about a state reimbursement program that would cover the costs of lead testing and any needed plumbing repairs. After the first survey in March, he says the group followed up with a second survey in July, although he acknowledges it’s possible some Montgomery County schools did, in fact, test their water for lead but did not return the survey.


Credit Environmental Protection Agency

A spokesperson for the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the agency overseeing the program that covered repair reimbursements only, reports that statewide more than 558 schools and districts took part before the program's expiration in August. The agency says at least 10 Montgomery County schools have had water system repairs done since the program began, soon after the Flint Michigan Water crisis.

Learn more about the Flint Water Crisis by listening to Michigan Radio's Not Safe To Drink series.

According to the EPA website, "8,000 schools and child-care facilities maintain their own water supply and are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). There are approximately 98,000 public schools and 500,000 child care facilities not regulated under the SDWA."

In light of the state's voluntary testing policy, Jacobs says more needs to be done in the Miami Valley to ensure drinking water is safe for children to drink. His group is encouraging Montgomery County parents to contact their child's school about whether the water is tested for lead.


Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.