Lead in School Drinking Water

The lead in our schools’ drinking water has received a great deal of attention recently. One reason for this scrutiny is due to the health and developmental problems in school-age children after exposure to high levels of lead. More awareness came to light when President Biden announced his goal to remove lead service pipes in the United States. He proposed $45 billion in funding for this project through the American Rescue Plan. Overall, the scientific consensus is that any level of lead in a child’s body is not safe.

On May 28, 2019, Governor Janet Mills enacted the passage of LD (legislative document) 153. This act was designed to strengthen lead testing in school drinking water. All schools have been mandated by the Maine Legislature to test for the presence of lead in their potable water. The coordination of this lead testing effort has been assigned to the Maine Drinking Water Program (MEDWP). This undertaking is anticipated to last two years but may last for several.

Schools that receive their water supply from a water utility are included in the LD 153 mandate as well. Although Maine’s public water utilities must provide water in compliance with the U.S. EPA’s Lead Copper Rule (LCR), schools should ascertain if lead is leaching from the school’s interior plumbing. Therefore, schools are urged to get sampling and remediation assistance from their water utility and/or others if necessary.

Currently, the U.S. EPA’s LCR action level for lead is not to exceed 15 parts per billion (ppb) in public water systems. In contrast, the EPA’s recommendation for schools is to stop using faucets and water fountains with levels higher than 20 ppb. These high and varying levels have caused considerable debate among many including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP advises that the lead standards should be changed to 1 ppb. The general agreement is that no amount of lead exposure is safe for our children. Accordingly, Maine is attempting a proactive approach by proposing that the levels do not surpass 15 ppb. The Maine Legislature is currently reviewing new rules for lead testing in school drinking water with Chapter 234 and LD 206. Consequently, be on the look-out for updates on the latest in water lead levels. 

Click here to learn more through the U.S. EPA.

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