Over $1 billion would be available to get the lead and asbestos out of public schools in Pennsylvania under a budget proposal announced by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday.
Some money also could be used to eradicate toxins from homes, day care centers and public water systems.
“Decades ago, well-intentioned Pennsylvanians constructed our homes, schools, waterways and other structures out of asbestos and lead because they were thought to be harmless, even superior materials,” Gov. Wolf said. “Now we know the serious harm both can cause. To build a better Pennsylvania, we first need to fix our foundation, which is why the five lead and asbestos removal initiatives I’m outlining today are so important.”
The largest state effort to eradicate harmful lead and asbestos would be funded through grants from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), a state grant program already in place to improve economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical projects.
Funding will be made available for training and certification to increase the number of individuals who are EPA-certified to complete lead remediation in areas where there are shortages of individuals to do this work.
The plan is to have the program operational next state fiscal year. With a $4 million state investment, $10 million in federal dollars could be leveraged annually for an annual total of $14 million to support efforts around lead remediation.
Some of the funds could come from a new federal initiative that allows a state to transfer amounts from its clean water revolving fund to its drinking water state revolving fund in order to address a threat to public health as a result of heightened exposure to lead in drinking water.
Gov. Wolf first introduced his Lead-Free PA initiative in August 2019 to call attention to the need for a law requiring universal blood level testing of children according to federal guidelines, and to convene regional task forces to address specific local needs.
A Lead-Free PA task force convened in December to gather the input of communities and their partners toward compiling a complete list of needs so that funding, when allocated, goes directly to programs and initiatives that produce swift and measurable results toward protecting Pennsylvanians.
“Together, these programs have the potential to assist thousands of Pennsylvanians with living healthier lives free of lead and asbestos danger,” Gov. Wolf said. “We have the opportunity to correct the past, and to build a brighter future. Pennsylvania should be a place free of lead and asbestos.”