Gov. Jay Inslee today issued a directive to the state Department of Health and partner agencies to assist local communities with lead testing and take steps aimed at reducing lead exposure in Washington.
“While no imminent public emergency has been discovered, recent detections of lead in some water systems are highlighting the important roles our water utilities, schools, public health departments and the state play in ensuring we all have access to safe, clean drinking water,” Inslee said. “This directive will better ensure we’re working in coordination and leveraging resources effectively to tackle lead at all its primary sources, whether it’s water, paint or soil.”
Inslee’s directive charges DOH and other state agencies to take action to reduce the exposure to lead, not only in drinking water, but also in the state’s infrastructure and places children are proven to be most susceptible to exposure, such as older buildings that may have lead paint.
Among the actions outlined in Inslee’s directive, DOH and the State Board of Health will review, and, if necessary, update and propose to the legislature how to implement WAC 246-366A (known as the “School Rule”). The rule, adopted in 2009, requires school districts to monitor several environmental health risks such as lead and mold. Due to lack of funding, the rule has not been implemented.
The state Department of Early Learning, in collaboration with DOH and the Office of Financial Management, will assess whether child care providers located in buildings constructed in whole or in part prior to 1978 should have an evaluation for sources of lead exposure, including the testing of drinking water.
The directive requires DOH to look at how it can improve efficiency of the state’s blood-level monitoring system and ensure full implementation of local public health outreach activities to families having children with elevated blood lead levels.
It calls on DOH to work with the Health Care Authority to improve lead screening rates among children on Medicaid who are at highest risk, and provide case management services to children with elevated blood lead levels and their families.
DOH will develop a plan with the goal to remove all lead service lines and lead components in larger public water drinking systems within 15 years.
In partnership with the state Department of Ecology and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, DOH will also seek federal assistance to revise the federal lead and copper rule and remove lead from our drinking water systems.
Secretary of Health John Wiesman says the directive will help focus attention on the most important aspects of lead exposure, especially for children.
"Lead is all around us and the governor's directive is a positive step in the right direction of reducing lead exposure," Wiesman said.
DOH is required to submit budget and policy recommendations regarding the various directive action items by October 2016.