Montana schools struggle with lead in water while awaiting federal relief

PHILIPSBURG — Water samples taken from the drinking fountain the station replaced had a lead concentration of 10 parts per billion – twice Montana’s legal limit for schools of 5 parts per billion for the toxic metal.

Thomas Gates, the principal and superintendent of the small Philipsburg School District, worries the new faucets, sinks and filters the district installed for roughly 30 water sources are temporary fixes. The high school, built in 1912, is likely laced with aged pipes and other infrastructure, like so much of this historic town.

“If we change faucets or whatever, lead is still getting pushed in,” Gates said.

‘The Hill’ reports that Medicare funding is on track to run out in 2028.

The school in Philipsburg is one of hundreds in Montana grappling with how to remove lead from their water after state officials mandated schools test for it. So far, 74% of schools that submitted samples found at least one faucet or drinking fountain with high lead levels. Many of those schools are still trying to trace the source of the problem and find the money for long-term fixes.

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