Nationwide Lead Contamination is Worse Than Previously Thought

Media Contacts
Skye Borden

Missoula, MT — Lead contamination in our schools is more pervasive than previously thought, according to water testing data in Montana and from 19 other states published by Environment America and U.S. PIRG today in an interactive map. As schools begin summer break, the groups urge public officials to take swift action to Get the Lead Out of schools’ drinking water.

Blue: States included in this analysis; grey: states not included in this analysis. 

“Wherever there are fountains, pipes or plumbing made with lead, there is risk of contamination,” said Environment Montana director Skye Borden. “As more schools test, they are finding this potent neurotoxin in the water our kids drink every day.”

Although the majority of Montana schools do not test, some districts began voluntarily testing their drinking water for lead after the crisis in Flint, Michigan, called attention to the problem.  On average, 75 percent of the water samples from four school districts – Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, and Bozeman – found lead concentrations at or above 1 part per billion (ppb), our 2018 analysis of available testing data found.

Rather than wait for more test results, the groups are calling on public officials to take swift action to “get the lead out” of schools’ drinking water. While removing lead-bearing pipes, fixtures and plumbing will take time, school districts can start this summer by installing filters certified to remove lead on all faucets and fountains used for drinking. And, all Montana school districts should enact policies requiring schools to test for lead and publish their results.

“Our kids deserve safe drinking water — especially at school where they go daily to learn and play,” said Borden. “I hope Montana districts will work this summer to ensure their schools are safe from lead contamination in the fall.



Environment Montana is a statewide, citizen-funded advocacy group. We work to protect the places we love and promote core environmental values, such as clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean energy to power our lives. Our Missoula-based staff focuses on timely, targeted action that wins tangible improvements in the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit