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Montana schools highlighted for lead in drinking water

A screenshot of the map published by Environment America.JPG

A new map released by the environmental group Environment America highlights Montana as a state with unhealthy levels of lead in its schools' drinking water.

Earlier this spring the local office for Environment Montana published the results based on record requests that show 75.1 percent of the districts’ tests found some level of lead in the water.

"Montana is a little bit in the middle. There are a few states that have performed worse, like Utah," said Environment Montana director Sky Borden.

Borden says Montana, like many other states, does not require schools to test for lead in water.

Borden requested the latest records for voluntary school water tests in the fall.

Billings tested at 70 percent at or above one part per billion particles. Missoula tested at nearly 78 percent, Great Falls at nearly 72 percent and Bozeman at 68 percent.

Borden says Bozeman Public Schools' most recent test for lead was in 2016.

According to Bozeman school administrators, they work closely with the city to test for lead and will be testing school water within the next month to get updated results.

"Our worst-case tests were just slightly over 1 part per billion, so obviously there are people or environmental groups who think there should be no led," said Steve Johnson, the deputy superintendent for Bozeman Public Schools.

Environment Montana says although the cutoff point for the EPA is 15 parts per billion, anything above one part per billion is not considered safe by the American Pediatrics Association.

Borden says the state needs to do more.

"I think it's incredibly important for Montana as a state to pass legislation that requires every school to test, every school to publish their test results, and if there's problematic fountains that do contain lead they need to install filters or remove them from service," she said.

Bozeman school officials say that in the past the school water has fared no differently than the city water when it comes to lead results. They add the city of Bozeman is aggressively looking into replacing lead delivery lines.

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