As you may be aware, on Sept. 6, 2016, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to require all public schools in New York State to test all potable water sources for lead. These sources include drinking fountains and sinks in classrooms, restrooms, kitchens, and outlying buildings.
Water samples were required to be taken by a New York State certified agency according to strict guidelines. Schools were required to test “first draw” samples from each cold water outlet, after the water was motionless for at least eight hours, but no more than 18 hours.
Water sources with lead contaminants above 15 parts per billion (ppb) cannot be used until follow-up test results show the lead level to be less than 15 ppb.
If a water source is found to have lead levels higher than 15 ppb, the district must:
- Take immediate steps to prohibit use
- Provide students and staff with an adequate alternate supply of water for drinking and cooking
- Develop and implement a lead remediation plan
Districts are required to report results of water testing to the local health department within one business day after receipt. Test results must also be provided in writing to all staff and parents within 10 business days after receiving the report. Remediation plans must be posted on district websites within six weeks of obtaining results.
All school districts must conduct water testing every five years hereafter, or as directed by the NYS Commissioner of Health. All samples will be analyzed by a lab approved by the Department’s Environmental Laboratory Approval Program.
Lead is a toxic material that is harmful to humans. It can enter potable water when pipes that contain lead corrode. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, the most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder. It is important to note that the term “lead free” refers to the plumbing materials and not to the absence or presence of lead in the water. For instance, structures built after January 4, 2014, when the “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act” went into effect, are considered lead free because they comply with the national mandate that every pipe, fixture, and fitting used to convey water for potable use contain less than 0.25% of lead by weight.