In recent months, there have been several local and national news stories about high lead levels in school drinking water. Lead isn’t 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. While there is no state or federal mandate requiring schools to test for lead, our district’s Environmental Services Division is implementing proactive measures to test drinking water sources for our students and staff to ensure it meets federal drinking water guidelines for schools established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Environmental Services and technicians from maintenance will be visiting schools over the next eight to 12 weeks before staff and students arrive in the morning. They will be collecting a water sample from every drinking fountain, kitchen food prep sink, lounge sink or other fixtures used for drinking water. Denver Water will assist with the analysis.
This activity also includes identifying older schools that may have a lead water service line in order to plan for replacement under the 2016 bond proposal or future bond proposals. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that lead levels over 20 parts per billion be remediated in schools. As a precaution, DPS will address issues in which samples test at 15 parts per billion or higher. One part per billion is equivalent to a single drop of water in 55,000 gallons.
Lead normally enters the drinking water from service lines, solder in copper piping and brass faucet fixtures. Lead is not present in the drinking water that Denver Water sends to our schools. Until a few decades ago, lead pipes were widely used for service lines and connections that carry water from street mains to houses and schools. Lead-based solder was used to join standard copper water pipes until 1988, when lead solder was outlawed. Until recently, brass and bronze faucets could legally be up to 8% lead. In 2011, the Reduction in Lead in Drinking Water Act further revised the definition of “lead free” by lowering the maximum content allowed in plumbing products that come into contact with drinking water (pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fixtures and more) from 8% to 0.25%. Products with the higher levels could be sold until January 2014.
Any source testing at or above 15 parts per billion will be taken out of service immediately, and an action plan put in place to filter or replace the fixture. The school will be notified and the district remediation protocols will be initiated. The source will not be used for drinking until tests come back below 15 parts per billion.
Lead exposure over long periods of time can cause health risks. While water is not the primary source of lead exposure among children, it is still a priority with DPS to ensure all of our schools are meeting the recommendations set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The safety of our students and staff is our number one priority.
Results for each individual school will be sent to the school as they become available. Lead results also will be posted on this DPS webpage, leadtesting.dpsk12.org.
While we don’t have evidence of elevated lead in drinking water at this time, we do have a number of older schools. This makes it more likely we will have lead levels close to or above the EPA recommendations. If so, we will inform our families and staff and move quickly to remediate the issue. For more information about this remediation, please see the response to question 4.
Resources are available from the Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.epa.gov/lead) and the Denver Environmental Health Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (720-865-5401). You may also consult with your child’s health care provider.
No. As an example, Jefferson County Public Schools, our neighbors to the west, also are in the process of testing for lead in school drinking water.