The Oregon Emergency Board on Wednesday approved reimbursing schools more than $2 million for about 53,000 tests for lead in school water supplies.
The board established a $5 million reserve fund in September and authorized the Oregon Department of Education to accept applications from schools for reimbursement of costs associated with testing for elevated lead levels in drinking water.
The 53,000 tests come from school districts that represent 89 percent of public school students in the state, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office.
School districts had until Dec. 1 to submit invoices for reimbursement. They could make requests for tests conducted between March and Dec. 1. The money only covers the cost of collecting and testing water supplies. It doesn’t account for any expenses associated with mitigation of lead contamination.
The widespread testing followed widespread media coverage of a scandal in Portland Public Schools over lead in drinking water that went unreported.
In August, the state Board of Education — at the behest of Gov. Kate Brown – approved a rule that requires school districts to submit a plan for testing for lead in water and other toxins in school environments and to report any results to the public. The rule doesn’t require actual testing.
Education and health authorities unveiled a database Dec. 7 that allows the public to look up lead test results.
Lawmakers have said they might consider legislation in 2017 that would require districts to test for lead in water.
New York recently enacted a law requiring schools to test for lead, report results to the public and develop a plan for reducing exposure to the toxin.