Testing for Lead in Drinking Water in New York State Schools

Co-author: Claire L. Barnett, Founder and Executive Director, Healthy Schools Network* Part I: The problem and New York’s response Every school day, parents send some 55 million children to 130,000 public and private schools nationwide.
That’s why New York took a major step forward in addressing lead in school water in 2016 by becoming the first state in the country to pass a law requiring school districts to test potable water sources and systems in schools for lead.
Schools are the places where children spend the most time when not at home, making schools important places to address environmental hazards.
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires operators of drinking water systems to test and report on lead levels with an “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) (which is supposed to trigger water system action to reduce lead levels).
Specifically, New York’s law requires public school districts and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) to test all potable water outlets for lead, provide free and safe potable water if an exceedance is found, provide parents with the test results, and post the results and remediation plans on the individual schools’ websites.
Schools are required to send both the test results and remediation plans to the State Education Department and the State Department of Health.
Simultaneously with the law’s enactment, the New York State Department of Health issued emergency regulations to implement the new law, providing more detail for school districts and BOCES.
The “action level,” meaning the threshold at which schools must act to reduce lead in water, is set at 15 ppb, the same action level established by EPA for operators of water systems.
If an exceedance of the action level is detected, schools must prohibit the use of that water outlet, pending implementation of a lead remediation plan followed by testing that shows no exceedance.
Next: Analyzing the results of testing for lead in New York State Schools *HS Network, the award-winning national advocate for children’s environmental health at school, has its feet on the ground in New York where it championed the first-in-the-nation state law requiring all public schools to test at the tap for lead.

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