The Clean Water for Georgia Kids Program, a partnership between the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, is now ready to help both schools and child care programs test, communicate, and provide low-cost recommendations on how to remove lead from drinking and cooking water across Georgia. The testing program is free with funding from an Environmental Protection Agency Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) grant.
DECAL works with child care programs, school systems, and child advocacy organizations to ensure that Georgia’s children receive high quality child care and early learning experiences in safe and healthy environments.
“As the department of state government responsible for helping child care programs in Georgia provide safe, healthy, and nurturing care for all of Georgia’s young learners,” said Rhonda Parker, Child Care Services Director of Field Operations at DECAL, “ this program will help ensure that the water used in child care programs is safe and free from lead.”
Childhood exposure to lead causes lifelong and irreversible cognitive and behavioral deficits. Lead can get into water from pipes or fixtures containing lead, particularly if the water is corrosive, or if the water sits for a long time in the pipe or fixture. Currently, schools and child care programs within the public water supply are not required to, and thus are usually not tested for lead at the tap.
“With the Clean Water for Georgia Kids Program, our mission is to eliminate childhood exposure to lead in water where Georgia’s children learn and play using our convenient, science-based approach to identify and fix lead at the tap,” said Jennifer Hoponick Redmon, a senior environmental health scientist and the RTI program director.
After water samples are collected and shipped back to RTI’s Analytical Sciences Laboratory with a prepaid mailing label, they are tested for lead. The program aims to test every drinking and cooking tap at up to 500 Georgia child care locations this year with the support of center staff. In North Carolina, the sister Clean Water for Carolina Kids program has so far tested more than 4,000 centers. Testing revealed lead at or above 15 parts per billion in at least one tap at 8.8% of facilities.
Participants receive their results along with clear recommendations. Often, no-cost and low-cost solutions are effective at reducing exposure to lead, such as practicing clean water habits (e.g., using cold water for drinking or cooking), designating lead-free taps for consumption, flushing water after periods of inactivity, installing water filters certified to remove lead, and replacing old faucet fixtures.
Up to 800 Georgia public schools and 500 Georgia child care learning centers or family child care learning homes can enroll in the program this year. The program team is especially interested in enrolling child care programs and elementary schools, schools that have a higher percentage of students receiving free/reduced lunch, and schools in underserved communities.
Enrollment for the program will continue through the year for the initial funding. To enroll, please register for one of the pre-enrollment webinars at this link (or paste https://bit.ly/3hW66kN into your web browser).
For more information about the Clean Water for US Kids program, visit: www.cleanwaterforuskids.org.
About the GA DECAL
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. We are located in downtown Atlanta, in the East Tower of the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd Building. We administer the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licensed child care centers and home-based child care, Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, federal nutrition programs, and manage the Quality Rated, Georgia’s community powered child care rating system. The department also houses the Head Start State Collaboration Office, distributes federal funding to enhance the quality and availability of child care, and works collaboratively with Georgia child care resource and referral agencies and organizations throughout the state to enhance early care and education. For more information on DECAL, go to https://www.decal.ga.gov.
About RTI International
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.
Led by State School Superintendent Richard Woods, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) is the state agency serving Georgia’s K-12 public school districts, schools, and students. “As part of our efforts to ensure every child has a safe place to learn, we are pleased to launch this project enabling lead testing in schools across Georgia,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “These results will allow local and state leaders to take action to provide safer learning environments for students.”
GaDOE’s strategic plan emphasizes transforming the agency into one that provides meaningful support to schools and districts, with an emphasis on child-focused, classroom-centered education policy. GaDOE staff work to ensure that the 1.7 million students in Georgia’s public schools receive a holistic education that focuses on the whole child, and graduate ready to learn, ready to live, and ready to lead. Learn more at gadoe.org and gadoe.org/reimaginek12.
QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS? Contact us at www.cleanwaterforUSkids.org/Georgia/contact or 1 (855) 997-3183 and a program team member will text, email, or call you back based on your preference.