October 15, 2019

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EPA issues new regulations on testing for lead in schools

This week the EPA will be issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking that would change how communities test for lead in drinking water. It's the first major update to the Lead and Copper Rule in nearly 30 years. The proposal that was announced last Thursday would require water systems to keep a public inventory of where those lead service lines and utilities would also have to notify their customers within 24 hours.

 The proposal would indeed change when officials have to take action based on water tests, making regulations stricter. Currently, water systems are required to find and fix sources of lead when a sample in a home exceeds 15 parts per billion. The proposal would establish a lower “trigger level” of 10 ppb, “which would compel water systems to identify actions that would reduce lead levels in drinking water 

But of great significance to school district leaders, the new regulation would also require that community water systems (CWS) sample drinking water outlets at each school and each child care facility served by the system. The system would be required to provide the results to the school or child care facility and to provide information about the actions the school or child care facility can take to reduce lead in drinking water.

Under the proposal, each year, 20% of schools across the country would be tested resulting in all schools being tested every five years. Sample results and education materials must be provided to each sampled school/child care center. There is no requirement to test any schools or facilities built after January 1, 2014.

The Community Water Systems (CWS) would be required to provide information to districts about the health risks and sources of lead in drinking water, collect samples for lead at schools and child care facilities within its distribution system, and share that data with the facilities and health departments to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the risks and likelihood of the presence of lead in drinking water. Prior to conducting sampling, the CWS would send information to the school and child care facilities to notify them of their plans to perform sampling and to provide them with the 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Toolkit. Under the proposal, a CWS would then be required to collect samples from five drinking water outlets at each school and two drinking water outlets at each child care facility served by the CWS. The CWS would be expected to complete sampling at all schools and child care facilities in its distribution system every five years. The samples would be first draw after at least 8 hours but not more than 18 hours stagnation of the building and be 250 ml in volume. The CWS would be required to provide each school and child care facility with the results of the samples taken in that facility. The CWS would be required to provide the sampling results as soon as practicable but no less than 30 days after receipt of the results. The CWS would also be required to provide the results for all samples collected in schools and child care facilities to the drinking water primacy agency and local health department where the school or child care facility is located. The CWS would not be required under this proposed rule for taking any remedial action at the school or child care facility following the sampling and notification requirements of this proposal. It would be up to the school district how they communicated the results of the lead testing to parents/guardians. For school districts in states that have already passed laws requiring lead testing, the EPA requirements would not be duplicative; instead, the State could waive school and child care facility sampling for individual to avoid duplication of effort. The only caveat is that the State must require CWSs to sample at all schools and child care facilities, or a program requiring schools and child care facilities to collect samples themselves, that is at least as stringent as the proposed EPA regulation.  States can also receive a partial waiver so as to avoid duplicating testing in schools or facilities that are required to be tested under state law.

AASA will be weighing in on the proposed regulation and encouraging superintendents to join them in responding to the regulation. Stay tuned for our forthcoming call-to-action.