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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Mandatory Testing Of Lead In Schools Never Funded

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Colin Fogarty
/
Northwest News Network files

Testing for lead in Washington schools is still voluntary seven years after the state passed rules to make it mandatory. That’s because state lawmakers never provided funding to pay for the testing.

The so-called “school rules” from 2009 mandate that school districts in Washington monitor for environmental risks like mold and lead. John Wiesman is Washington’s Secretary of Health. He says mandatory testing is the “right thing to do” but cautions there’s no quick fix.

“Our task right now is to get as much lead out of the drinking water systems and out of the environment that we can and it’s going to take us time to do that,” Wiesman said.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive Monday that orders the Department of Health to come up with new cost estimates to pay for mandatory testing in schools. The directive also requires health officials to assess whether childcare providers should be required to test their drinking water.

The governor’s directive follows the discovery of elevated lead in the drinking water in some Tacoma schools.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."