Recent crises involving elevated levels of lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and Sebring, Ohio – along with other U.S. cities – have reached prominence on a national level. Prompted by these events, federal and state regulators are reacting to quickly review regulations concerning lead in drinking water and to enact prompt changes for water systems across the country. In addition, this increased awareness of lead in drinking water has resulted in public attention to school water systems and the potential for lead exposure in schools. Schools are a focus because young children are at higher risk of adverse health consequences from lead exposure.
There is no federal law requiring testing for drinking water in schools, except for schools that have their own water supply.The information provided here is only intended for schools that receive water from the City of Houston municipal supply. However, the United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) provides information and guidance on its website about drinking water quality in schools and in child-care facilities. USEPA has developed an online series of questions that may help facilities decide if testing drinking water for lead is necessary. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, there may be the potential for lead in the drinking water. The only way to know if a drinking water outlet has lead is to test it. The decision tree is located at: https://cfpub.epa.gov/safewater/leaddecision/
USEPA provides a more detailed sampling protocol in its “3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools Guidelines.” This document can be downloaded as a PDF.
Sampling should occur when school is in session. Sampling during the summer, weekends, and vacation periods when buildings are vacant is not the ideal time to try to determine the water quality within buildings.
HISD will work with the City of Houston to determine any source of lead in drinking water. Additionally, the USEPA has developed a short guidance document on best management practices for drinking water in schools and child-care facilities. This document provides routine measures for reducing lead exposure, and it may be downloaded here.
For information on the TCEQ Drinking Water Lead and Copper Program, please visit: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/chemicals/lead_copper/lead-copper.html
Starting with the elementary schools, all water fountains and one component in all kitchens will be tested.