Since 2016 Denver Public Schools (DPS) and Denver Water have partnered in a proactive effort to sample drinking water in all DPS buildings to ensure it meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for schools.
Lead is not present in the water Denver Water sends to our schools, but lead can get into water as it moves through lead-containing plumbing and fixtures. There are no lead drinking water pipes in any DPS schools. Under the precautionary principle, DPS sampled water at all schools between 2016 and 2017. In total the district collected 9,169 samples which were then tested by Denver Water.
The EPA recommends changes if lead levels are over 20 parts per billion (ppb). One part ppb is equivalent to a single drop of water in 55,000 gallons. That’s approximately the number of gallons of water needed to fill 25 by 50 foot pool with an average depth of 6 feet.
DPS is using the lower number of 15 ppb as an action for making change. Drinking fountains that tested at or above 15 ppb were immediately removed from service until repairs were made. In 2017/18 teams repaired or replaced 264 fixtures (186 sinks, 64 drinking fountains and 14 kettle fills).
In 2019, DPS added filters to all drinking fountains that had results of 10 to 14.9 ppb. The filters provide 10 ppb or less. Elementary schools were prioritized (83 drinking fountains in 42 buildings) with middle and high schools following.
Beginning with the 2019 -2020 school year, Environmental Services started a regular, ongoing schedule to sample drinking water on a 5-year schedule. The District continues to identify and replace pipes and plumbing in our schools with galvanized pipes (do not have lead) which may cause water discoloration or poor taste.
In June 2022, Colorado passed the Clean Water in Schools and Child Care Centers (House Bill 22-1358), which requires all preschool through fifth grade schools to sample drinking water sources by May 2023 and repair (filter, replace) any sources that test at 4.5 ppb or higher.
Read more about CDPHE’s Test and Fix Water for Kids program and view school results here: