Lead in School Drinking Water

Lead most frequently gets into drinking water by leaching from the plumbing system (such as lead solder, brass fixtures, and lead or galvanized pipes) as water moves through your school’s distribution system.

Even though the drinking water you receive from your water supplier meets federal and state standards for lead, your school may have elevated lead levels. The amount of lead in drinking water depends on how corrosive the water is and the materials used to construct the plumbing system.

Because lead concentrations can change as water moves through the distribution system, the best way to know if a school might have elevated levels of lead in its drinking water is by testing the water in that school. Testing facilitates an evaluation of the plumbing and helps target remediation. It is a key step in understanding the problem, if there is one, and designing an appropriate response.

If schools choose to sample, they should follow these important planning steps before actually collecting any lead samples:

  • Review their school’s plumbing system to understand how to collect representative samples of water students and staff consume under normal building use.
  • Develop a lead sampling plan and appropriately train staff on proper sampling procedures.
  • Develop a communication plan so that school staff and parents are properly informed of the intended sampling, sampling results, and their implications.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and The Washington Department of Health’s brochure, Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water Systems are provided to help school officials collect water samples for testing.