New Report Finds Widespread Lead Contamination in Montana’s Schools

Media Contacts
Skye Borden

Environment Montana Research & Policy Center

Missoula, MT – A majority of Montana schools that test have found unsafe levels of lead in drinking water, according to new report by Environment Montana Research & Policy Center.

The report looked at 2016-2018 data from Billings Schools, Missoula County Schools, Great Falls Schools, and Bozeman Schools. On average, 75 percent of the water samples from all four districts found lead concentrations at or above the physician-recommended health standard of 1 part per billion (ppb). 

“Doctors and public health agencies agree: there is no safe amount of lead in drinking water, especially when our children are concerned,” said Skye Borden, director of Environment Montana Research & Policy Center. “Even very low levels of lead exposure have been linked to a range of health problems in kids, including damage to the nervous system, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing.”

The report also looked at data from schools that serve as their own utility, which typically draw from well water and tend to be more rural. In the past ten years, these school-utilities found lead in 78 percent of the samples they tested.

“In all likelihood, these confirmed cases are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Borden. “Most Montana schools have at least some lead in their pipes, plumbing or fixtures. And where there is lead, there’s risk of contamination.”

The report also recommends state policy changes to ensure safe drinking water in schools, including

  • Adopting a 1 ppb standard for lead in school drinking water, immediately removing from service any faucet or fountain where this level is exceeded;
  • Requiring testing at all water outlets used for drinking and cooking at schools;
  • Immediately installing filters certified to remove lead at all faucets and fountains in Montana schools;
  • Pro-actively removing lead-bearing parts from schools’ water delivery systems to ensure lead-free water; and
  • Disclosing all available information about test results and remediation onsite and online.

The full report can be found here: 


Environment Montana Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces in America’s last best place. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.