Councilmember Robert White Introduces Bill to Address Environmental Health Hazards on Children and Families

Today, Councilmember Robert White introduced the Public Facilities Environmental Safety Amendment Act of 2020 to address growing concerns about the presence of lead and other health and environmental hazards in playgrounds, and in schools and other government buildings that the city is modernizing or demolishing. White, who chairs the committee with oversight over DC government construction, said, “DGS knows that there are significant levels of lead on DC’s public playgrounds and is not acting with urgency or transparency.” White also said that residents have expressed considerable concern about whether the Department of General Services (DGS) is performing proper environmental testing on schools and homeless housing. 

White said that he remains incredibly concerned about lead exposure to children playing on the District’s public playgrounds, many of which have surface material with high lead levels. White also said, “DGS has tested playgrounds and found elevated lead levels but has yet to share final lead test results with the Council or the public, and the administration is refusing to test all public playgrounds or to examine possible surface material alternatives.” The bill will require DGS to conduct lead testing on all District-owned and maintained synthetic playground surfaces and to analyze all currently available synthetic and non-synthetic materials on the market to ensure the District is using safe and durable materials. 

White said he also hears a lot of concern from residents about exposure to harmful materials during construction projects. He said, “Current law does not require the city to test for exposure to environmental hazards during demolition, renovation, and construction. This puts children and families at risk when agencies find hazardous materials but don’t inform the public.”

The bill will require DGS to assess occupied government buildings for environmental hazards when they are within 250-feet of construction activities. White said, “We have to take public health more seriously. At a bare minimum, we have to be upfront with our residents when we find health hazards so that residents can make informed decisions. My hope is that this bill will fill in the gaps in our current law to ensure our residents are protected from lead and other environmental hazards, and to force the administration to move on the lead hazards that we know exist in our public playgrounds.” He said that his committee is planning to schedule a hearing on his bill as soon as possible.

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