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Democrats on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners have proposed a $500,000 fund that would reimburse school districts and child care facilities that test their drinking water for lead and copper.

The proposal comes in the wake of the Flint water crisis and state officials saying it hasn’t determined whether it will fund school testing. The expensive tests have sparked a debate over whether school districts should be responsible for paying for them.

Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing for reforms that would require schools to test their water for lead every year. He proposed $9 million for school lead testing in his executive budget.

Testing can cost districts between $2,000 and $7,000.

The Oakland proposal calls for the creation of the Kids’ Safe Drinking Water Fund which would urge schools to test water before Labor Day, post the results on public websites and direct the county’s Health Division to develop guidelines for schools to be reimbursed.

“There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our children,” Commissioner Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak, said in a statement. “We can’t afford to wait to protect all Oakland County kids, and that’s why we believe the testing should be done before the start of the next school year.”

Several schools across Michigan reported testing for lead since the Flint water crisis. In Oakland County, elevated levels of lead and copper were found in the water at Rochester, Farmington Hills and Southfield school districts.

Detroit Public Schools and Grosse Pointe Public Schools also found high lead levels in their water after testing.

Macomb County officials say they have not discussed funding for school lead tests but would consider it.

“The idea does have merit in light of circumstances that have come up in Flint and other communities,” Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Flynn said. “With limited funding at the health department we would have to identify schools that are a higher risk.”

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of lead and often display learning disabilities and slower development.

Oakland County’s proposal was submitted to the Finance Committee for review.

“This is a public health issue, lead poisoning is permanent,” Commissioner Marcia Gershenson, D-Bloomfield Hills, said. “If this initiative discovers just one school or childcare center with elevated levels of lead in the drinking water it will be worth it.”

nterry@detroitnews.com

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