Filter First

Drinking Water

Since the Flint, Michigan, water crisis in 2014, there's been ongoing public concern about the threat of lead in drinking water. It’s well-proven that lead exposure causes numerous negative health effects, including damage to the nervous system, learning disabilities, behavior and attention problems, and impaired hearing.  

There is consensus in the public health community that there is no safe level of lead consumption, but unfortunately,  many school districts in Pennsylvania are providing drinking water that contains lead. 

The ELCA’s Social Statement on Education (2007) states, “The ELCA expects communities of learning and teaching to be safe places.” Combined with our commitment to care for creation, including access to clean drinking water, LAMPa supports calls for “Filter First” legislation for PA schools. 

Because children spend so much time in school buildings during the prime years of their development, lead contamination in school drinking water is particularly dangerous. For example, a 2022 report showed that  60 percent of all water samples taken from Philadelphia school water outlets had elevated levels of lead. Some of the samples taken test hundreds – if not thousands – of times higher than recommended limits Records showed high levels of lead in western Pennsylvania districts this school year, as well. 

More and more health experts agree that the most comprehensive way to address the potential threat of lead in school drinking water is to implement a districtwide “Filter First” approach. The Filter First approach calls for school districts to replace old, antiquated drinking fountains with lead-filtering water bottle filling stations or hydration stations, and to ensure that there is at least one of these lead-filtering hydration stations for every 100 students and staff in each respective school building.  

Not only does the Filter First approach help to remove lead and other impurities from drinking water, but studies show that the Filter First approach is more cost effective than the “test and tell” policy that has traditionally been implemented by school districts (The “test and tell” approach would require school districts to test all drinking water fixtures annually, and then replace those that test positive for lead.) Currently, Pennsylvania policy encourages, but does not require testing. 

There is also growing data showing that access to drinking water through water bottle filling stations dramatically increases students’ overall water intake, in turn improving health. Water makes children healthier by helping their muscles, joints, and tissues, improving their digestive system, and keeping their growing bodies hydrated. Healthy, active children learn better, perform better academically, and behave better. 

In 2022, the Filter First policy was implemented across the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the Commonwealth’s largest district. Under this policy, district will replace all remaining antiquated drinking fountains with lead-filtering water bottle filling stations by the end of fiscal year 2025.  

It’s time to implement statewide protections that require the implementation of the Filter First policy throughout all school districts in Pennsylvania, and include revenue sources to assist the Commonwealth’s school districts to fund this critical public health initiative. 

SB986 is a bipartisan bill that would require  a “Filter First” policy statewide and establish the Safe Schools Drinking Water Fund. Check to see if your senator is a sponsor – if they are, thank them! If not, send a note to them and to your representative using our tool below to encourage them to support this important legislation. BE SURE TO INCLUDE A PERSONAL NOTE – IT REALLY DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. 


  • Your State Senator or Senators
  • Your State Representative or Representatives


Dear [Decision Maker],

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]
[Your Email]


*Required fields