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Routine Water System Maintenance & Lead Reduction Practices
Establish a Drinking Water System Maintenance Program
EGLE recommends all schools and child care centers develop and utilize a drinking water quality management plan to maintain fresh water to every tap used for consumption. The plan should include remedial and routine flushing, cleaning or replacement of aerators and screens, filter maintenance and replacement, and the testing of outlets dedicated for drinking or food preparation purposes.
An effective management and flushing plan will reduce the risk of lead exposure and other contaminants in the drinking water.
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.
Restoring Water Service
Restoring and maintaining water quality after extended shutdowns and transitional periods in schools and child cares are critical steps for protecting educators and students from exposure to potential waterborne health risks such as microbial contamination, lead, copper, 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.
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.