As we shared this past spring, MUHS partnered with students and faculty researchers from Middlebury College to test all the sources of drinking water at MUHS for lead. The study included sampling and analyzing the water from all drinking water outlets in MUHS, including water fountains, sinks, and ice machines, a total of 120 outlets.
Why is it important to screen to test the school’s drinking water for lead?
Although most lead exposure occurs when people eat paint chips and inhale dust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that up to 20% of lead exposure may come from drinking water. Even though the public water supply to the school meets EPA’s lead standards, lead can still get into a school’s drinking water. As water moves through a school’s plumbing system, lead can leach into the drinking water from plumbing materials and fixtures that contain lead. Testing is the best way to know if there are elevated levels of lead in the
school’s drinking water.
What were the results of the study?
In all cases, water obtained from drinking fountains and ice machines was below the EPA action level for lead of 15 ppb. Detectable concentrations of lead, ranging from 6-12 ppb, were observed in water from three fountains. Water from 13 sinks exceeded the EPA action level upon “first draw sampling” (the first water to exit the faucet after an 8-18 hour period of no-flow), but was below the action level after 30 seconds of flushing. These results indicate that the source of elevated lead is likely the sink fixtures/connections rather than in the pipes that carry the water.
Seven of the exceedances were observed in basement science classroom sinks, outlets that should not be used for consumption in any case. The remaining six exceedances were in sinks scattered throughout the building, including four bathroom sinks, a sink in a food preparation area, and a sink in a teachers’ lounge. The exceedances in food preparation areas pose a concern, as food can accumulate lead from the water.
What comes next?
We have accepted the researchers’ recommendations that we:
(1) replace older fixtures and those with demonstrated exceedances – especially those used for food preparation and consumption – with newer Pb-free fixtures and Pb-free solder.
(2) flush stagnant water from fixtures upon the replacement of batteries in automatic sinks
(3) add signage to warn against consumption of water from classroom sinks and other locations that see infrequent use and, therefore, may accumulate more lead.
To date We have replaced two old drinking fountains that had detectable levels of lead and replaced the faucet in the food preparation area. The remaining recommended fixes will be completed by June 30, 2018
Where can I get more information?
For more information regarding the testing project or sampling results:
Call Bruce MacIntire at 802-382- 1500
Access the full report
For information about the health effects of lead:
Call the Health Department at 800-439- 8550
Visit http://healthvermont.gov/environment/children/prevent-lead- poisoning -parents
To request a drinking water test kit:
Call the Health Department Laboratory at 802-338- 4736 or 800-660-9997