Legislation to notify students and families of environmental hazards heard in Senate E-12 Committee

Legislation was heard in the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee Friday to ensure students, staff, and parents are notified when environmental hazards are present at Minnesota’s schools. 

“When there are environmental hazards that can threaten the health and safety of our students, people have a right to know,” said Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), the legislation’s chief author. “The health and wellbeing of our students should be our highest priority, and I look forward to getting this legislation signed into law.”

The legislation requires school districts, charter schools, or nonpublic schools to notify school staff, students, and parents of environmental hazards as soon as practicable following notification to the schools by the Department of Health or Pollution Control Agency of the hazard. The legislation also requires direction on any additional information about the hazards. 

Introduction of this legislation is a response to ongoing pollution issues from the manufacturing company Water Gremlin, which was discovered to be reporting erroneous pollution emissions numbers for more than 15 years. Senator Wiger was joined by Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group Board Member Sheri Smith who testified in support of the bill.

“We learned there were obstacles we could not overcome, in the notification process, because students and staff attending schools that are physically located in the ‘red or orange zone’ technically *lived* outside the zone,” said Smith. “As a result, persons exposed to extreme levels of the toxic pollution from Water Gremlin were not notified of the exposure. From a logic standpoint, this makes no sense. Both students and staff of schools deserve to have been notified about the exposure to TCE and other toxic chemicals.”

The legislation was laid over for possible inclusion in the Education Policy Omnibus bill.

Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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