In September 2016, a state law went into effect that requires all public school districts in New York to test water for lead. The law requires school districts to sample all water outlets currently or potentially used for drinking or cooking purposes in buildings that may be occupied by students and to submit those samples to a state-approved lab for analysis.
Regulations called for testing to take place again in 2020 (extended to June 30, 2021 due to COVID-19) and every five years thereafter, unless the state Commissioner of Health requires testing sooner. The state established an action level of 15 micrograms of lead per liter, typically referred to as “parts per billion (ppb).” If a sample from a water outlet exceeds this level, schools must take steps to prevent the use of the outlet for drinking or cooking purposes until it is remediated and follow-up testing confirms it is no longer above the action level.
Stillwater Central School District Elementary and Middle/High School water outlets were tested for lead in June 2021. The majority of outlets tested below the action level. There was one high lead level result in the Elementary School, a drinking water outlet, which has been taken out of service. There were two outlets in the high school that tested high. Those outlets have been designated as hand washing stations only, and signage has been displayed stating that.
FAQs about water quality testing
What is first draw testing of school drinking water for lead?
The “on-again, off-again” nature of water use at most schools can raise lead levels in school drinking water. Water that remains in pipes overnight, over a weekend, or over vacation periods stays in contact with lead pipes or lead solder and, as a result, could contain higher levels of lead. This is why schools are required to collect a sample after the water has been sitting in the plumbing system for a certain period of time. This “first draw” sample is likely to show higher levels of lead for that outlet than what you would see if you sampled after using the water continuously. However, even if the first draw sample does not reflect what you would see with continuous usage, it is still important because it can identify outlets that have elevated lead levels.
What are the results of the first draw testing?
On June 10, 2021 and June 11, 2021 our District contracted with an outside vendor for lead testing in drinking water in the Elementary School, Middle School and High School. We sampled 362 outlets in both buildings, including all drinking fountains (256 outlets in the MS/HS and 106 in the Elementary School). Out testing identified three water outlets in excess of acceptable levels of lead. Two outlets in the MS/HS were hand washing prior to the testing. Signage has been installed at both sinks stating “hand washing only”. One outlet in the Elementary School was a drinking located in a classroom. The water fountain was not used during the 2020-21 school year and has been removed from service until further testing can be conducted.
What is being done in response to the results?
Outlets that tested with lead levels above the action level (15 ppb) were removed from service, unless an outlet is a sink faucet needed for handwashing. In that case, a sign was posted at the outlets indicating that the sink is not to be used for drinking. Outlets that tested below the action level remain in service with no restrictions.
What are the health effects of lead?
Lead is a metal that can harm children and adults when it gets into their bodies. Lead is a known neurotoxin, particularly harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of children under 6 years old. Lead can harm a young child’s growth, behavior, and ability to learn. Lead exposure during pregnancy may contribute to low birth weight and developmental delays in infants. There are many sources of lead exposure in the environment, and it is important to reduce all lead exposures as much as possible. Water testing helps identify and correct possible sources of lead that contribute to exposure from drinking water.
What are the other sources of lead exposure?
Lead is a metal that has been used for centuries for many purposes, resulting in widespread distribution in the environment. Major sources of lead exposure include lead-based paint in older housing, and lead that built up over decades in soil and dust due to historical use of lead in gasoline, paint, and manufacturing. Lead can also be found in a number of consumer products, including certain types of pottery, pewter, brass fixtures, foods, plumbing materials, and cosmetics. Lead seldom occurs naturally in water supplies but drinking water could become a possible source of lead exposure if the building’s plumbing contains lead. The primary source of lead exposure for most children with elevated blood-lead levels is lead-based paint.
Should your child be tested for lead?
The risk to an individual child from past exposure to elevated lead in drinking water depends on many factors; for example, a child’s age, weight, amount of water consumed, and the amount of lead in the water. Children may also be exposed to other significant sources of lead including paint, soil and dust. Since blood lead testing is the only way to determine a child’s blood lead level, parents should discuss their child’s health history with their child’s physician to determine if blood lead testing is appropriate. Pregnant women or women of childbearing age should also consider discussing this matter with their physician.
For information about lead in school drinking water, go to:
For information about NYS Department of Health Lead Poisoning Prevention, go to: http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/
For more information on blood lead testing and ways to reduce your child’s risk of exposure to lead, see “What Your Child’s Blood Lead Test Means”:
http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2526/ (available in ten languages).