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Lead Drinking Water Testing for New Jersey Schools

 

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Education (DOE) have jointly released new guidance for mandatory testing of drinking water in schools and educational faculties. With immediate effect, the DOE adopted amendments of N.J.A.C. 6A:26 on July 13, 2016, requiring testing of drinking water for lead contamination within one year of effective date of the rule. The rule requires school districts to sample and analyze all drinking water within their educational facilities for lead levels exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Action Level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Sampling must be performed in accordance with a lead sampling plan developed by school district based upon guidance developed by the departments.

The process involves several key components:

  • Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) describing the planning, implementation, and evaluation steps that will be used within the school district’s Sampling Plan. The QAPP must be completed by the school district representatives, the certified laboratory, and any third-party consultants. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to see a draft QAPP.
  • Sampling Plan outlining the methods used for testing all drinking water sources used for consumption or food preparation in every school within the district. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to see a draft Sampling Plan.
  • Plumbing Profile for each school identifying and categorizing the plumbing system infrastructure to identify potential sources of lead. The profile should include information regarding the construction of the school, detailed information listing the make/model and connections of all drinking water outlets, notes regarding plumbing repairs and replacements, copies of blueprints or floor plans, and information regarding the material of internal plumbing.
  • Walk Through conducted prior to the sampling event. The walk through must include an inspection of every room in each school to identify and inspect all drinking water outlets. As part of the walk through, all outlets should be inspected to identify potential issues (such as leaks, odors, or color differences) and then labelled on a floor diagram.
  • Filter Inventory listing all outlets that are fitted with a water treatment filter. The inventory shall include information regarding specific locations, make/model, installation/replacement dates, repairs, and capability of the filter to remove lead.
  • Floor Diagram depicting the location of the service line, food preparation outlets, drinking water fountains, and other drinking water outlets to be sampled.
  • Drinking Water Sampling of all drinking water outlets used for consumption and food preparation. Samples shall be collected before the school opens in the morning, at least 8 hours after the water was last used (but no more than 48 hours). Collected drinking water samples and associated field blanks must be sent to a Department of Environmental Protection certified laboratory for analysis of lead. Specific sampling requirements and technical guidance are available at the DEP’s website.
  • Drinking Water Outlet Inventory listing information regarding the type, location, and sample location code of each drinking water outlet. The inventory should also include information about whether the outlet has a chiller unit, any fitted screens, aerators or filters, non-functioning, leaking and infrequently used units,and the make/model of the unit.
  • Lead Data Report Package (LDR) for each facility that includes a description of the qualifier used by the laboratory, analytical results, chain of custody, and spreadsheet of the results with specific information about each sampling location.

Discolored Drinking Water SampleWithin 24 hours of receiving the laboratory results, the school district shall make all sampling results publicly available. If sampling identifies outlets that exceed the Action Level of 15 ppb, the district must immediately turn off all offending units or post signs stating they are not to be used for consumption.  Written notification to parents/guardians and the Department of Education must be provided if any outlets exceed the Action Level.

Where sampling results exceed the Action Level, follow-up flush samples will also be required from each corresponding outlet. The purpose of the flush draw is to determine whether the source of the contamination is the outlet itself, the upstream plumbing, or a combination of both. Outlets that exceed the Action Level are required to be taken out of service until they have been remediated and re-sampled prior to being used again.

Where Does the Lead Water Contamination Come From?

Most public water suppliers deliver water that meets or exceeds Federal and State public health standards for lead. Once the water leaves the mains, it travels through a service line and into the building’s plumbing system where it comes into contact with plumbing materials that may contain lead.  Sources of lead include lead service lines, lead pipes, lead soldered joints, leaded brass fittings, and lead joints.  As the water sits in the plumbing, lead can leach out into the drinking water.

Is Lead Water Contamination in Newer Buildings?

The problem isn’t just restricted to older buildings. Lead solder was commonly used in plumbing systems until 1986 and as recently as 2014, “lead free” plumbing components were allowed to contain up to 8% lead.

Which Facilities are Required to Test for Lead in Drinking Water?

According to the Department of Education, the rule affects the following educational facilities:

“New Jersey public school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, jointure commissions, educational services commissions, approved private schools for students with disabilities acting under contract to provide educational services on behalf of New Jersey public school districts, State-funded early childcare facilities pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A-13A, and receiving schools as defined by N.J.A.C. 6A:14-7.1(a).”

What Outlets Should be Sampled for Lead?

All drinking water outlets used for consumption or food preparation should be sampled. These include kitchen and food preparation outlets, teachers lounge outlets, nurse’s office outlets, home economic sinks, drinking water fountains (bubblers and coolers), outside drinking water fountains and food preparation outlets, concession stands, ice machines, and any other drinking water outlets used for consumption.

How Long Do We Have?

The rule states that all drinking water must be sampled and analyzed within 365 days of the effective date of the rule (i.e by July 13, 2017).

How Often Do We Need to Test for Lead in Drinking Water?

According to the rule, school districts must perform testing within 365 days of the rule and again every 6 years. Each district must also submit a statement of assurance of compliance to the Department of Education each year.

What if We Identify a Problem?Lead testing of drinking water fountain

If a district identifies lead concentrations exceeding the Action Level of 15 pbb, the district must immediately shut off all offending outlets or post signs stating they are not to be used for consumption. Districts are required to notify parents/guardians of school children attending the facility in addition to notifying the Department of Education within 24 hours. The notification should describe the steps taken to immediately end the use of drinking water outlets where results exceeded the Action Level and the measures taken to ensure that alternate drinking water has been made available to students and staff.  All test results (regardless of the values) must also be posted on the district’s website and made available at each school facility.

Is there Funding Available for the Drinking Water Testing?

The State has made $10 million of funding available to reimburse the costs of any water supply testing and analysis conducted after the effective date of the rules (July 13, 2016). To date, there are no State provisions available for districts that have already conducted water testing.

What if We Have Already Tested Our Drinking Water?

Until July 13, 2016 there were no requirements for most Schools to test their drinking water for lead. However, many school districts proactively chose to screen their drinking water outlets prior to the new rule and associated regulations being published. The new regulations require several factors that were not published in the EPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water at Schools which was the most current guidance available for schools and consultants at the time. As such, it is not yet clear whether the Department of Education will allow waivers for schools that have already tested if they do not meet all of the newly published regulations.

Can We Apply for an Exemption from Testing?

School districts may request an exemption from the testing requirements if they can demonstrate that they do not use any drinking water outlets for consumption or food preparation in any of their facilities.  Districts must apply to the Department of Education to obtain an exemption.

Where Can We Get Further Information?

For further information, contact Karl Environmental Group at 1-800-527-5581 or use the resources below:

NJDEP Lead in Drinking Water – Schools and Child Care Information

EPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water at Schools