Drinking Water Testing In Schools

For Schools Sampling Drinking Water for Lead

DrinkingFountainThe New York State Department of Health requires that public schools sample for lead within their buildings‘ drinking water and follow the guidance below as provided by USEPA (EPA 816-B-05-008) and Subpart 67-4 of Title 10 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York.  Schools should contact Niagara County Department of Health (NCDOH) before testing.

It is important to read the document thoroughly and to adhere to this guidance closely in order to achieve accurate and reliable analytical results.  The Department of Health also recommends that schools consult one of the laboratories listed here for additional assistance.

Health Department staff is available if you have questions about sampling water or health concerns related to lead. Please call us before proceeding with any testing.  Call (716) 439-7455 or e-mail at daniel.ziehm@niagaracounty.com

Guidance Documents

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Potable Water and Lead

How does lead occur in drinking water?
Lead seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household or building plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, and in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect houses and buildings to water mains. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0%. Older construction may still have plumbing that has the potential to contribute lead to drinking water.  Prior to 2014 the law allowed end-use brass fixtures, such as faucets, with up to 8% lead to be labeled as “lead free,” after 2014 this limit was lowered to a weighted average of 0.25%. Visit the National Sanitation Foundation Web site at www.nsf.org to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.
What Water Outlets/Fixtures Have to be Sampled?
The regulations require public schools to test each potable cold water outlet for lead, in each school building occupied by children, unless the building is determined to be lead-free pursuant to federal standards (Section 1417 SDWA).

All potable cold water fixtures currently or potentially used for drinking or cooking purposes, including but not limited to a bubbler, drinking fountain, or kitchen/ bathroom/classroom/teacher lounge/nurse’s  faucets, ice makers, outside concession stand faucets or any other fixture known to be or visibly used for consumption. Showers are exempt from testing.
What if the Lead Concentration of Water at an Outlet Exceeds the Action Level (15.0 ug/l), The School Must:
  • (A) - Prohibit use of the outlet until:
    • (1) - A lead remediation plan is implemented to mitigate the lead level of such outlet
    • (2) - Test results indicate that the lead levels are at or below the action level
  • (B) - Provide building occupants with an adequate supply of potable water for drinking and cooking until remediation is performed.
  • (C) - Report the test results to the local health department as soon as practicable, but no more than 1 business day after the school received the laboratory report.
  • (D) - Notify all staff and all persons in parental relation to students of the test results, in writing, as soon as practicable but no more than 10 business days after the school received the laboratory report; and, for results of tests performed prior to the effective date of this Subpart, within 10 business days of this regulation’s effective date, unless such written notification has already occurred.
When is Sampling Required by?
Public Schools shall complete collection of initial first-draw samples according to the following schedule:

(i) for any public school serving children in any of the levels prekindergarten through grade five, collection of samples is to be completed by September 30, 2016;

(ii) for any public school serving children in any of the levels grades six through twelve that are not also serving students in any of the levels prekindergarten through grade five, and all other applicable buildings, collection of samples is to be completed by October 31, 2016
How do I learn about the quality of the drinking water supplied to my property?
Public water systems are required to provide their users with an Annual Water Quality Report (AWQR). If your water is supplied by a municipal supplier, you can contact them for this report. Lead and copper water quality results for the most recent sampling conducted in 2014 can be found in this report. The AWQR for various municipal water suppliers in Niagara County can be found at the following web addresses :

The three Cities supply water to properties located within their municipal boundaries.  The Niagara County Water District supplies water to the remaining Towns and Villages in Niagara County.
If the cause of elevated lead levels is often fixtures, how do I have the water tested at my facility/house?
Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, even including some advertised as “lead-free", may contribute to lead in drinking water. Visit the National Sanitation Foundation Web site at www.nsf.org to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.
If you choose to test the water at your home, contact one of the laboratories on the list posted on this website. They will provide information, sampling instructions and containers for proper testing. You may also call the Niagara County Department of Health for more information on testing at 716-439-7452.
How can I reduce potential exposure to lead that may be in the drinking water?
Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula. Boiling water will not reduce lead concentration.  If your cold water hasn’t been used for several hours, before using it for drinking or cooking run the water for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature. This reduces the concentration of any potential lead-containing water from the pipes.

Remove loose lead solder and debris from the plumbing by removing the faucet strainers from all taps and running the water from three to five minutes.  Thereafter, periodically remove the strainers and flush out any debris that has accumulated.  Replace the strainers and aerators after flushing.
Is there a safe level of lead?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dl) or more.

It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children can be exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as by drinking water. If the level of lead in a child's blood is at or above the CDC action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.  Additional information on lead prevention can be found at: http://www.niagaracounty.com/health/Services/Lead-Hazard-Information