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Portland Public Schools Water Issue – 2016 “Episode”

As you may have been following in the news… “they” “just” found lead in PPS (Portland Public Schools) water (at the drinking fountains and sinks in our elementary and middle schools) … the drinking water being given to our school children here in Portland, Oregon – every day for decades.

Of course, I discovered this was a concern back in 2009 and reported it then—and in fact, it was the lack of reaction to my overtures to the school district, county, city and state at that time that was a significant factor in prompting me to create an independent nonprofit to increase awareness being brought to these issues… because back then (in 2009) no one seemed to care.

Rewind further, to 2005 – long before this 2009 revelation – I was told by a local “public servant” (a nonprofit agency employee in an agency that received public funding – an agency ostensibly set up for childhood lead poisoning prevention) that he* was “specifically not allowed to discuss the lead-in-water issue – because the agency received funding from the Portland Water Bureau.” [It was the vivid memory of that disturbing exchange years earlier that had me vow that the nonprofit that I founded would never receive any federal or state funding, specifically any funding (including corporate funding) that might censor our message in any way.] *This person is still working in lead poisoning prevention in Portland.

Presently, we happen to be (randomly) following on the heels of the crisis in Flint and are – for lack of a better word – um, “lucky” to have this groundswell of awareness around this long-festering problem this time around.

However – to be clear, while our children should OBVIOUSLY not be drinking lead-contaminated water (and I continue – as I have since I identified this widespread contamination in PPS seven years ago – to send my kids to school with water bottles of filtered, clean water from home every single day), I still think the focus on the water crisis is a diversion/ smokescreen in a way – taking attention away from the VERY REAL and unfortunately much more significant problemdeteriorating lead in paint in significant quantities throughout the Portland Public Schools system (and yes – in schools throughout the country), however I will “take whatever we can get” in terms of media attention on this issue (the toxicity and ubiquity of lead in our kids’ environments) and the impact on our children and society!

While there are many things I want to say and share about this issue – both as a parent who lives in Portland, Oregon and as the Executive Director of Lead Safe America Foundation, it will take me some time to find  the minutes to fully articulate and put up a more in-depth post and I want to at least start with this: below is a DRAFT (excuse the typos) of my testimony for the original legislation I wrote for the State of Oregon in 2010/2011 (HB 2715) – a law that would have required schools to take care of existing lead hazards in public and private schools and daycare centers.  I have highlighted the sections pertaining to water/ water filtration / drinking fountains. Our primary opponent on this issue was the Oregon School Boards Association, as they were “concerned about the cost”.

To learn more about this issue please click on the keywords at the top of the post to see other related posts. Thank you.

Click on the image below to see the full 7-page PDF of this draft testimony.  Thank you.



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