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School Drinking Water Program

Girl drinking water from a glass
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

School Drinking Water Program

All children need access to healthy water. Michigan children spend a significant portion of their day in school or child care facilities and quality drinking water is critical to a child’s overall health, development, and performance.

Water entering a school or child care building is required to meet federal and state drinking water quality; however, due to intermittent water use patterns, more opportunity exists for water stagnation and contaminants such as bacteria, lead, and copper to get into the water.

The EGLE School Drinking Water Program was created to provide guidance and tools for all school and child care facilities regarding communication, plumbing assessments, water management plans, sampling plans, sample collection, interpretation of results, risk reduction actions, and water moving programs for school personnel.

Contact Information

Holly Gohlke
GohlkeH@Michigan.gov
517-220-1904

Healthy Water Healthy Kids. Michigan map with two smiling cartoon kids.

Free Drinking Water Lead Risk Assessment for Schools

Lead can get into drinking water if it is present in the plumbing system or in the fixtures, and the possibility of children drinking it cannot be ignored. Testing is the only way to know if lead is in the water.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) School Drinking Water Program will assist schools in the pursuit of providing healthy drinking water for all students and staff. EGLE currently has a grant to pay for sampling and testing of school building water for lead with funds coming for remediation efforts. To find out if you qualify for this assistance, contact EGLE.

Do not ignore this potential problem. It may be easier to remediate than you think, as the source of lead in the system typically comes from the fixture. Having to replace all the pipes is extremely rare.

Drinking Water Quality During COVID-19

Restoring and maintaining water quality after extended shutdowns and transitional periods of lower numbers in schools are critical steps for protecting educators and students from exposure to potential waterborne health risks such as microbial contamination, lead, and disinfection byproducts. EGLE recommends the development of a drinking water quality maintenance plan to reduce detrimental health risks associated with low to no use of water.

 

Laptop on white table featuring welcome slide from EGLE webinar series

Webinar Series - Improving Water Quality in Michigan Schools and Child Care Facilities

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) School and Child Care Drinking Water Program is excited about additional funding and expected changes to the program this year! Through a series of four free webinars - one each month starting in February - we will discuss ways to improve drinking water quality within the building to protect the health of young children and students and will provide information about free resources to accomplish these things.

School and child care facility directors, custodial staff, principals, superintendents, school board members, plumbers, and water system operators should attend these webinars. Each webinar will be recorded and posted online when available. Continuing education credits are available for certified drinking water operators and the Facilities Director MSBO Voluntary Certification Program.

February 23, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Introduction to School & Child Care Drinking Water Quality

Children are extremely vulnerable to the health risks associated with exposure to contaminants that may exist within school building drinking water. School building plumbing has the potential to introduce or harbor contaminants, therefore, it is critical to ensure proper operation, maintenance, and monitoring of the school water system. This webinar will give a general overview of the Michigan School Drinking Water Program and cost-free services, the basics of drinking water quality, and the importance of a drinking water management plan.

March 16, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Get the Water Moving & Best Management Practices for Water Quality in School and Child Care Facilities

The potential for lead to dissolve into water can increase the longer the water remains in contact with lead in plumbing. As a result, facilities with intermittent water use patterns may have elevated lead concentrations which are detrimental to the health and development of young children. Stagnant or low flow of water also promotes the growth of bacteria in the system and other plumbing problems. This webinar will provide guidance on best water management practices and flushing protocols to reduce the risk of bacteria, lead, and/or copper contamination for the drinking water system.

April 13, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Water Management & Water Sampling Plans for Schools and Child Care Facilities

Properly operating, maintaining, and monitoring the drinking water system helps build confidence in the delivery of quality drinking water and the protection of health. This webinar will provide guidance on how to develop a water management and testing plan to reduce the risk of bacteria, lead, and copper in school and child care building water.

May 18, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Monitoring School & Child Care Facility Drinking Water for Contaminants

Although barriers are put in place to keep water in school buildings safe for drinking, events may happen to break one or more of those barriers down, potentially leading to water contamination. One way of knowing if a barrier is broken is through water sampling. This webinar will explain the importance of sampling water for coliform bacteria, lead, and copper, provide proper sampling techniques for reliable results, provide guidance for test result analysis, and describe actions for reducing the risks if contaminants are found.

 
Upcoming Events
school water bottle filling station

Dedicated Drinking Water Stations

Touchless, filtered, water bottle filling stations can be an effective strategy for providing hands free drinking water while reducing lead from drinking water. With the challenging nature of school building use these days, many schools are beginning to rely on the touchless filling stations to limit contact surfaces and provide good quality healthy drinking water during times when building use is limited.

school water bottle filling station filter

Drinking Water Filter Maintenance

Buildings that have drinking water filtration devices should replace the filter cartridges per the manufacture’s recommendations, or when there have been longer than normal periods of stagnation with no or low water usage. It is crucial that filters are replaced after the building has been properly flushed, and before the building is returned to normal use.

Lead in Drinking Water

Schools and child care facilities either get their source of water from a community water supplier or they produce their own water on site. Schools and child care facilities that have their own water source must follow the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended (Act 399), Lead and Copper Rule requirements for lead and copper sampling and may choose to also conduct investigative lead sampling.

10 Steps for Lead Reduction in Drinking Water

There is no known safe level of lead exposure for children. EGLE recommends that action is taken to reduce the risk of lead in water at all fixtures with test results greater than 5 parts per billion (ppb) and encourages schools and childcare facilities to reduce lead levels to the lowest possible amounts. The following ten steps provide guidance for the investigation of lead in school and child care facility water.

mother and her children drinking water out of glass

Step 1: Communicate with Parents and Staff

The first step to an effective lead reduction program is to develop a communication plan. Communicating early and often about your testing plans, results, and next steps will build confidence in your ability to provide a safe environment.

When developing your plan:

  • Take the initiative to communicate with your school community.
  • Make sure your information is honest, accurate, and comprehensive.
  • Speak with one consistent voice.
  • Anticipate questions and concerns and address them proactively.
  • Keep your audiences up to date as new information becomes available.

For more detailed information on developing a communication plan, see Module 1 in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities. To learn more about lead in drinking water with parent and student educational resources, see Module 2 in EPA's 3Ts guidance document. 

Communication Letter Templates
EGLE has provided communication letter templates in MS Word for your use:

lead plumbing

Step 2: Do a Plumbing Assessment

Look for lead plumbing and determine the flow of water through the building.

The second step to an effective lead reduction program is to conduct a plumbing assessment. Knowing what the school building’s plumbing material is made of and where the fixtures for drinking and food preparation are located makes it easier to determine if there is or may be a potential lead problem, helps with the development of a proper lead sampling plan, and gives valuable information on how to reduce the risk of lead in the drinking water. Plumbing assessments may be done by school personnel, licensed plumbers, or with the help of the community water supplier or local health department staff.

A plumbing assessment involves gathering:

  • Basic building information
  • General water and plumbing information
  • Water sampling and maintenance program information

An inventory of the plumbing material, pipe and fixture locations, and cold-water flow is done by walking through the building and recording the information on a floor plan, a School Building Plumbing Profile, a Drinking Water Fixture Inventory spreadsheet, and/or an Individual Fixture Information worksheet.

A plumbing assessment will assist with:

  • Identifying lead in the water service line, pipes, valves, and fixtures.
  • Creating an investigative lead sampling plan for all drinking and food preparation taps in a building.
  • Creating a water management plan.
  • Developing a routine flushing program to eliminate contaminants and stagnant water in the water system.

Plumbing assessment tools:

water bottle fill station

Step 3: Identify Drinking Water Fixtures

Find and assign a unique code to each fixture in preparation for sampling.

The third step to an effective lead reduction program is to develop a code system to easily identify individual fixtures to be sampled. This system uses a unique code that will allow each fixture to be identified by location, type, and other relevant characteristics.

Once the fixtures have been assigned a unique code, the code should be identified on a site map accompanied by a narrative that describes the observable conditions of each sampling location. The unique code should also be put on or near the fixture to help in the bottle/paperwork verification process during a sampling event.

The code will be used on sample bottles, laboratory analysis request forms, and on other paperwork such as sample test result tables, flushing/aerator cleaning logs, and corrective action forms.

Fixture Identification Tools:

sample map of school with sampling plan fixtures

Step 4: Develop a Sampling Plan

Develop a drinking water sampling plan in order to collect proper samples.

The only way to know if there is lead in drinking water is to test for it. Lead is rarely present in the source water and, even when water entering a building meets all federal and state requirements for lead, corrosion of older plumbing materials within the building may contribute to elevated lead levels in their drinking water. The potential for lead to be released into water increases the longer the water remains in contact with leaded plumbing materials and, as a result, facilities with intermittent water use patterns, such as schools, are more likely to have elevated lead levels in drinking water.

The occurrence and rate of corrosion and lead release into drinking water depends on:

  • How corrosive the water is entering the building (pH, alkalinity, conductivity, etc.)
  • The type of plumbing materials in the building (lead solder, pipes, brass valves, etc.)
  • The age of plumbing materials (pipes pre-1989 and fixtures pre-2014)
  • How long water sits in the pipes and fixtures (weekends, vacation breaks, and low usage taps)
  • If solid pieces (particulate) of lead are knocked loose in the plumbing system

Investigative Sampling

A plan for investigative sampling for lead should be made with the goal of sampling all fixtures where water is used for drinking or food preparation on a routine basis. Although you may believe your building is not at risk because it does not have a lead service line or lead solder, lead is still allowed in small amounts (up to 0.25 percent) in brass valves, “lead-free” fixtures, and other plumbing components. Elevated lead may be found in the plumbing system building-wide, or just at a single fixture – you will not know unless every fixture is tested. Lead release can be variable. An initial test at a fixture may show no lead but if the conditions are right (i.e. excessive stagnation or particulate release), another sample taken at the same fixture later may show elevated results. Do not include fixtures that are not used for consumptive purposes (e.g., hand wash, janitor, lab faucets, etc.) in the sampling plan; however, clear signage should be used at these locations to notify people that it is not for drinking.

What is needed to develop the sampling plan:

  • Drinking water fixture inventory spreadsheet
  • Site map or floor plan showing the flow of cold water through the building

The sampling plan should include:

  • The names and roles of persons involved in the sampling process.
  • The fixtures to be sampled (may include prioritization for buildings and fixtures).
  • The sequence of fixture sampling (the order in which multiple samples are collected).
  • The sampling procedure for first-draw samples.
  • A 30-second flush sampling procedure.
  • Actions that may be needed if test results show elevated lead amounts.
  • Follow-up sampling procedures and timelines.
  • A communication plan to inform parents and staff of the results and actions taken.
  • How frequently you can and should test for lead in the water.

How frequently your facility can and should test for lead in drinking water is dependent on a variety of factors (e.g., plumbing, water quality, lead results, budget, and competing priorities). Schools and childcare facilities should make drinking water testing a part of their regular building operations. Annual monitoring is suggested as it provides information on changes in the lead levels and the effectiveness of remediation or treatment efforts.

Sampling plan tools:

person taking a drinking water sample at a school drinking fountain

Step 5: Collect Samples

Investigative sampling for lead in drinking water is encouraged for all schools and childcare facilities.

EGLE recommends that all fixtures used for consumption are sampled and tested for lead, however, a school or childcare facility conducting investigative lead sampling may decide to prioritize the sampling effort if resources are limited. If this is the case, prioritization should be made at buildings with the highest risk for lead release and those with the youngest children:

  • Schools or childcare facilities built before 1989.
  • Buildings with the highest risk population (ages six and under).
  • Fixtures used by children under the age of six or pregnant women.
  • Fixtures frequently used by students and staff.
  • Fixtures that are older and/or have never been tested

Meaningful results can be obtained only if the samples are collected properly. EGLE recommends the following basic sampling considerations based on the USEPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities guidance manual:

  • Have a communication plan in place before sampling.
  • Select a Michigan certified laboratory to analyze the samples for lead.
  • Collect samples only from fixtures for drinking or food preparation.
  • Sample on a day during the week when school is in session or on a Saturday.
  • Use 250 milliliter (mL) wide-mouth bottles from a certified laboratory.
  • Make sure no water is used in the building for a minimum of eight hours before sampling.
  • Do not let any water run down the drain when collecting a first-draw sample.
  • A 30-second flush sample may be collected after the first-draw sample.
  • Multiple bottle sequential sampling may be done to investigate the plumbing system.
  • Collect only cold water.
  • Collect samples in order of the sampling plan (sequential sampling).
  • Do not remove aerators or screens prior to sampling.
  • Do not flush the system prior to sampling unless instructed to do so.
  • Do not close the shut-off valves to prevent fixture use prior to sampling.
  • Follow laboratory requirements for sample delivery.
  • Know what actions you will take if test results show elevated lead./li>

Follow up samples should be taken after all remediation efforts are completed to ensure low lead results before a fixture is put back into service.

Specifics on collecting samples can be found in EGLE’s Guidance for Investigative Lead Sampling and Evaluation document.

Sampling tools:

  • School Sampling Field Notes (spreadsheet or PDF)
  • Drinking Water Sample Results (spreadsheet or PDF)
  • EGLE’s Guidance for Investigative Drinking Water Sampling for Lead
Man testing for PFAS in lab

Step 6: Review and Interpret Results

It is very important to review and understand the meaning of all test results immediately upon receipt from the laboratory. The sample results should be compared to the plumbing profile, any field notes taken during the sampling event, and any previous test results as they may help explain the reason for the result, give you a “big picture” of what may be going on with the plumbing system, help in corrective actions if needed and provide meaningful information to reduce the exposure and risk of lead in drinking water. For example, if the field notes show an aerator is full of particles when you check it after you collected the sample, and the result shows elevated lead amounts, you may have found the cause of the lead in the water at this fixture and simple cleaning and resampling may correct the problem. Also be aware that a non-detected lead test result may not be meaningful if the field notes indicate that the faucet was leaking during sample collection.

A review of the test results for all fixtures used for human consumption in a building will indicate whether there is a building-wide risk of lead exposure in the drinking water, if it is an isolated case, or if there is no risk.

When the laboratory returns the test results, the concentrations of lead in the drinking water samples will be reported in metric form such as milligrams per liter (mg/L), micrograms per liter (ug/L), or they will be reported as a concentration such as parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb).

Milligrams per liter (mg/L) is the same as parts per million (ppm).

Micrograms per liter (ug/L) is the same as parts per billion (ppb).

Examples:

  • 0.001 mg/L = 1 ug/L = 0.001 ppm = 1 ppb
  • 0.005 mg/L = 5 ug/L = 0.005 ppm = 5 ppb
  • 0.015 mg/L = 15 ug/L = 0.015 ppm = 15 ppb

There is no known safe level of lead exposure for children. Based on lead sample results, EGLE encourages schools and childcare facilities to prioritize remediation efforts to reduce lead levels to the lowest possible amounts.

The public water supplier is required by law to monitor the corrosivity (ability to “eat away” other things such as metals) of the water they deliver to customers. They collect a set of samples throughout the water distribution system (typically at homes) and, if 10 percent of all the samples collected are greater than 0.015 mg/L (15 ppb) for lead, the water supplier must take action to reduce the corrosiveness of the water in the system. The action level of 15 ppb for lead is not a health-based standard and is based upon the USEPA’s evaluation of available data on the ability of corrosion control to reduce lead levels at the tap. This action level is a screening tool for determining when certain treatment actions are needed. EGLE recommends that schools and childcare facilities take immediate action to reduce the amount of lead in drinking water at any fixture with a result greater than 5 ppb, which is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s health standard for bottled water.

Water is naturally corrosive and will dissolve anything it is in contact with if given enough time. Lead is a soft metal, that is easily dissolved. A water supplier can control the water leaving the water plant and, with treatment, can reduce the corrosivity of the water being delivered to the distribution system. However, there are many factors that can cause lead to be dissolved in the water in homes and buildings that have lead pipes, solder, or lead material in fixtures and valves. The corrosion of lead tends to occur more frequently in “soft” water (lathers soap easily) and acidic (low pH) water. Other factors such as temperature (hot water dissolves faster), alkalinity, chlorine levels, the age and condition of plumbing, and the amount of time water sits in the plumbing without movement also contribute to the corrosion potential.

Salina Elementary School in Dearborn

Step 7: Communicate Results and Risk Reduction Actions

At the heart of an effective communication plan is preparation and coordination to deliver information swiftly, professionally, and consistently. Telling parents and staff (the school community) about your drinking water quality program will demonstrate your commitment to protecting children and staff health. Communicating early and often about your testing plans, results, and next steps will build confidence in your ability to provide a safe environment.

After obtaining the test results, it is important to provide the results to the school community as soon as they are available. You also need to communicate the actions you will take to reduce the risk of lead in drinking water if you get elevated lead results, or if no corrective measures are appropriate because the lead levels are low.

A school or childcare facility knows their best method to getting information to all parents, guardians, and staff. A letter or email notifying all that the test results are posted on the school website or available in the administrative office are options.

Public education regarding health effects and risks posed by lead in drinking water; the significance of lead in other sources such as the air, soil, and dust where individuals may seek blood-lead level testing if they are concerned; and how families can increase their awareness of potential lead exposure in their homes should also be provided.

Communication tools:

  • Letter templates
  • Public notification template
  • Lead education documents and guidance materials
water bottle filling station covered in plastic

Step 8: Take Corrective Action

You may or may not have to take corrective actions to reduce the risk of lead in drinking water based upon the test results. Solutions to reduce the risk typically should be addressed on both a short-term and a long-term basis. Measures can be taken while you wait for your test results or until a permanent solution has been put in place. It is helpful to become familiar with potential remediation options before sampling has occurred so quick action can take place. You should work closely with maintenance staff and plumbers who may make repairs to ensure that the chosen remediation options will remove lead from the water and to understand the benefits and considerations associated with each option. It is also important to ensure that your school and/or childcare facility population are familiar with the use of new fixtures or technology that may be installed.

Immediate Response

1. Shut Off or Render Permanently Inoperable Problem Fixtures

If initial sample results from a fixture exceed 5 ppb, the fixture should be shut off or disconnected until the problem is resolved. Shutting off problem fixtures can also provide a permanent solution. If the fixture is not used regularly, this may be a viable option; however, if the fixture is frequently used, this is probably not a practical long-term solution. Care must be taken to ensure the fixture has been “taken out of service”. Physically remove handles or fixtures, turn off valves behind walls or under a locked cabinet, or securely bag the device to prevent use until it can be addressed. Do not return the fixture to service until corrective actions are taken and resampling indicates no exceedance.

2. Share Test Results

Post test results in your facility (e.g., in the administrative offices), and on a public website. Notify staff, parents, and students of test results and actions you are taking. Also, reach out to the public water system and local health department to share results and discuss potential remediation measures.

3. Post “Not for Drinking/Cooking” at Problem Fixtures

If initial sample results from a fixture exceed the remediation trigger level, but the problem fixture is routinely used for purposes other than human ingestion (e.g., hand-washing), clear signage can be posted to notify people that the fixture is not to be used for drinking or cooking until the problem is resolved.

4. Increase Awareness and Public Education

Take the initiative in providing information to your school community. Be a good and reliable source of information on your program for reducing lead in drinking water. Be positive, proactive, and forthcoming when working with the media, members of the community, parents, students, and staff.

Short-Term Control Measures

Below are short-term measures facilities can take as they consider long-term or permanent control measures. You should consider the pros and cons of each before choosing what steps are most appropriate. As you implement short-term measures, you should also consider the benefit of remediation that removes the risk of lead contamination (noted in the Permanent Control Measures section).

Make sure it is clear to parents and staff that that these are temporary actions until you can take a permanent action to reduce/remove the source of lead in drinking water. 

1. Provide Filters at Problem Fixtures

Point-of-use (POU) faucet units certified for the reduction of lead can be effective in removing lead on a short-term basis if properly operated and maintained. POU units that are connected directly to the faucet are vulnerable to vandalism and misuse and, therefore, must be strictly monitored. This measure may be taken if there is a widespread problem and using bottled water is not an option.

Some treatment devices that claim to remove many contaminants often do not remove lead. Unfortunately, some devices may increase lead levels if not maintained properly. Therefore, it is very important to use filters specifically certified for lead reduction. To select a lead-reducing filter, check with the manufacturer or a third-party website (such as www.nsf.org or www.wqa.org) to verify the product was tested and certified against NSF/ANSI Standard 53 (for lead removal). For additional protection for particulate lead, look for a filter that is also certified against NSF/ANSI Standard 42 (for class I particulate reduction, 0.5 μm to <1 μm).

Follow-up testing through the filters is recommended, as with all remedies, to ensure that the efforts result in reduced lead levels at the fixture.

2. Provide Bottled Water

This can be an expensive alternative but might be warranted if you are aware of widespread contamination and other remediation is not a near-term option. EGLE recommends that you request a written statement from the bottled water distributor guaranteeing that the bottled water meets the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state standards for bottled water and keep it with your records. The FDA standard for lead in bottled water is 5 ppb.

3. Flush Fixtures Prior to Use

Flushing individual problem water fixtures or all fixtures within the school or childcare facility may also represent a short-term solution. However, unless you can ensure lead levels remain low throughout the day, flushing just once a day or once a week is not recommended. If the first-draw sample has elevated lead but the 30-second flush samples indicate no or low lead levels, facilities could use signage that notifies staff and students to flush for 30 seconds prior to each use. It is important to create schedules and ensure implementation of these practices until permanent control measures have been completed. Refer to the EGLE created guidance documents for system flushing and for individual fixture flushing. See the EPA’s 3Ts Flushing Best Practices factsheet for additional information on fixture flushing instructions.

Permanent Control Measures

1. Replacement of Problem Fixtures

If you have identified a fixture or multiple fixtures as being the source of lead contamination, fixture replacement may be a permanent and cost-effective fix. The fixture and any identified upstream connective plumbing components (e.g., valves, leaded solder) must be replaced with certified “lead-free” products and follow-up testing is recommended to ensure that the efforts result in reduced lead levels at the fixtures.

If the sources of lead contamination are localized and limited to a few fixtures, replacement may also be the most cost-effective option in the short-term.

The EPA's revised March 2015 guidance, How to Identify Lead-Free Certification Marks for Drinking Water System and Plumbing Products, can be a useful resource for selecting lead-free plumbing. Note: New brass faucets, fittings, and valves may contain up to 0.25 percent lead to drinking water even though they meet the lead-free requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

drinking water faucet fixtures

2. Pipe Replacement

The best option for lead reduction is to remove all lead pipes and materials from the plumbing system. However, this can be very costly and virtually impossible to do in an older building. If you have a lead water service line coming into the building, contact the public water supplier to get it replaced. A long-term budget plan may be put in place to remove lead components and materials from the system, replacing them with certified lead-free products. The removal of lead and replacement with lead-free can also be accomplished any time plumbing repair work is done.

3. Provide Filters at Problem Fixtures

Some facilities may choose to use certified lead-reducing filters, also known as POU units, as a long-term or permanent control measure. When doing this, facilities should be sure to create maintenance schedules and identify a point of contact to oversee making sure they are properly maintained. Beware that faucet POU units are subject to tampering and misuse and are not recommended for long-term use unless they are tamper-proof units.

An in-line POU filter is typically found inside a drinking fountain unit or directly connected to the water line serving the fixture and is less subject to tampering.

4. Institutional Control of Drinking Water Locations

To reduce potential exposure to lead in drinking water, a school or childcare facility may establish a drinking water quality program that directs people to get drinking water at limited drinking fountains and faucets in the building. Limiting the locations for drinking helps with water movement through these fixtures reducing water stagnation and resulting in healthier drinking water. It may also be a cost-effective means to combating elevated lead in the system.

Institutional control includes the following:

  • Limit the number of fixtures used for drinking.
  • Post “hand wash only” or “not for drinking” signs at all non-drinking fixtures.
  • Install filtered bottle-fill drinking fountain units (at least 1 per 100 occupants) if there is a risk of lead in the plumbing system.
  • Install POU lead reduction filters if needed on drinking water faucets and food preparation fixtures.
  • Provide education to promote drinking water locations and access to healthy water.
  • Conduct annual sampling to ensure there is no risk of lead in the drinking water.

5. Other Considerations

Electrical current may accelerate the corrosion of lead in piping materials, so also consider checking grounding wires. Existing wires already grounded to the water pipes can in some cases be removed by a qualified electrician and replaced by an alternative grounding system if local or state building codes allow. Be aware that the removal of grounding from water pipes may create a shock hazard unless an acceptable, alternative ground is provided.

Tools:

school drinking water fountain

Step 9: Establish a Routine Water Moving Program

Because it is known that the potential for lead to be dissolved into water increases the longer the water remains in contact with lead in plumbing, it is vital for school and childcare facilities to establish a routine water moving or “flushing” program. Moving the water in the system also reduces exposure to environmental hazards (e.g., bacteria) and helps prevent poor tasting and smelling water. Flushing activities should be planned as part of the school or childcare facility’s overall water management program to improve drinking water quality and should not be conducted immediately prior to collecting a water sample.

A routine flushing program can vary from one building to another. And there are different types of flushing practices that a facility may utilize in their program, such as:

  • Running the water at a fixture for at least 30 seconds before drinking or food preparation use
  • Flushing water fixtures for a specified amount of time every Monday morning before students arrive
  • Flushing water fixtures for a specified amount of time after summer, winter, or spring breaks or when water may have been stagnant for a long period of time
  • Flushing water fixtures after any plumbing repair or fixture replacement
  • Plumbing system zone flushing (deep flush to remove particulate lead)

Flushing basically involves opening valves and faucets and letting the water run to remove water that has been standing in the interior pipes and/or the fixtures. The flushing time varies by the type of fixture and plumbing configuration.

Be careful not to flush too many fixtures at once. This could dislodge sediments that might create further lead problems, it could overload the sewer system, or it could reduce pressure in the system below safe levels. If the flow from fixtures is reduced noticeably during flushing, too many fixtures have likely been turned on at once.

Flushing can also be a tool after remediation. In addition to replacing or removing lead containing plumbing or fixtures, flushing can help clear out debris or lead particulates that may be released when remediation occurs.

Flushing Tools:

  • EGLE Guidance for Zone Determination
  • EGLE Guidance for Flushing School Plumbing
  • USEPA 3Ts Flushing Best Practices
  • Flushing Log Sheet
Michigan schoolchildren wait to board a bus.

Step 10: Follow Up

There are things that must be done to make sure actions taken to reduce lead and improve water quality have been and continue to be successful:

  • Collect follow up samples after all remediation efforts to ensure no to low lead results before a fixture is put back into service
  • Update documents and records
  • Provide parent and staff outreach
  • Provide proper maintenance on filtration devices
  • Conduct routine sampling on a regular basis to ensure water quality