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The Lead in the Water study found that 98% of the Philadelphia public schools tested had drinking water samples contaminated with lead. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Philadelphia City Councilmember and Penn graduate Helen Gym plans to introduce legislation for lead-free water filtration in Philadelphia public schools after a Penn study revealed the presence of lead in the schools' drinking fountains.

The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center released the Lead in the Water study, which revealed that 98% of the Philadelphia public schools tested had at least one tap contaminated with lead, and 61% of all outlets tested across the district contained lead, according to a press release by the PennPIRG Education Fund

The study used public data released by the School District of Philadelphia.

“A new report from Penn Environment and PennPIRG makes clear that we must urgently complete the transition to water filtration stations and away from water fountains that carry risk of lead exposure,” at-large Councilmember and Penn graduate Gym said, according to The Philadelphia Tribune.

The study included a list of recommendations for the School District of Philadelphia and the federal government. The new legislation will likely incorporate these suggestions, including replacing drinking fountains across the Philadelphia School District with water bottle filling stations and removing lead-bearing plumbing and fixtures over time.

Lead contamination in Philadelphia remains "widespread," even though the city takes action to manage individual water fountains with high levels of lead, Gym said. 

Under a 2017 citywide law, the School District of Philadelphia is required to test for lead contamination in each water outlet in every school building every five years and publish the results on a publicly available website, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 2016, Gym passed legislation that set up routine testing for lead in water in school buildings and the public release of the results of the tests. Gym also advocated for the Philadelphia School District to establish water filtration stations in the schools, after she listened to students who said that their school's water was "inaccessible or unappealing," according to Gym. 

“Every child needs access to safe and ample drinking water in their schools — the health of our students is critical to their success, and the success of our entire city,” Gym said.

Over four years into the district's testing process, only 29% of public schools in the district had testing data published online. The report’s findings encompass 65 of the district’s over 200 schools. An interactive web page, released by PennPIRG, displays the test results for each school.

“Schools should be safe places where our kids go to learn, achieve, and grow up to be productive citizens in society,” PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center Executive Director David Masur said, according to the Tribune. “Instead, our study shows the pervasive threat of lead in drinking water faces Philadelphia kids when they enter our school buildings. It’s time for district officials to address this threat once and for all."