Monitor Water Quality in State-Supported Living Facilities

Testimony on Senate Bill 546 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst

Senate Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs

March 20, 2017

The Texas Medical Association, representing more than 50,000 physicians and medical students, appreciates the opportunity to submit our comments in support of SB 546 by Senator Kolkhorst. 

SB 546 will establish important requirements for state-supported living facilities to collaborate with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in developing a plan for testing and monitoring the water supply in these facilities for the safety of residents and staff. 

While all Texans understand they need water for their daily activities, as physicians we view access to clean, safe water as fundamental to health. Each of us is exposed to lead in the environment — and some of us have a higher level of lead exposure because of where we work or live. But unsafe levels of lead in the water supply are a particular concern because of the long-term health effects of cumulative exposure to it. Certainly, a person with an intellectual disability and/or another disabling, chronic condition residing in a facility with a lead-tainted water supply is most vulnerable to further disability. Such a residential facility puts residents at risk of increased blood lead levels that can lead to neurological damage or have an impact on other chronic conditions. Long-term exposure increases these effects.   

But we cannot stop at state-supported living facilities regarding this important effort. We also encourage you to promote this type of collaboration at other public residential or educational facilities such as our public schools. We are particularly concerned about aging school facilities. This is an environmental safety matter left to school districts — many of which may lack the resources to monitor water quality or pay for the repair of aging water systems. 

We applaud the requirement in SB 546 to conduct outreach and education on water quality for residential facility residents and staff. In a state as large and diverse as Texas, there are variations in the quality of our water resources and public and private water systems. Our communities and residents must be well-informed about the need for strong water-quality monitoring and be ensured the water they are drinking is safe. Every day we encourage our patients to turn away from sugar-sweetened beverages and drink more water, but our best efforts to support their health or help them recover from an illness are moot if these patients do not have access to safe drinking water. 

We thank Senator Kolkhorst not only for bringing this important issue forward for your consideration but also for recognizing the great responsibility we have for supporting our most vulnerable populations. We encourage this focus on water quality and public awareness, and we look forward to working with you on this matter essential to public and individual health.  

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Last Updated On

March 21, 2017

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