New York State’s New Legislation Requires School Drinking Water Testing


New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed new legislation (S.8158/A.10740) into effect on September 6, 2016, requiring all schools in the state to test their drinking water for lead-copper contamination.  According to New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, “We know how harmful lead can be to the health and well-being of young children, and that’s why the Senate insisted on testing school water for lead. As a result, New York becomes the first state in the nation to perform this testing and protect millions of its students from potential health risks.”

The new legislation is accompanied by emergency regulations issued by the state’s Department of Health (DOH), stating test results must be submitted by the deadline of September 30, 2016 for elementary schools, and October 31, 2016 for secondary schools. Schools that have already performed testing and remediation since January 1, 2015 do not need to retest. Those built without the utilization of lead piping, solder, and/or flux are also exempt, as are schools that have tested to find no contamination for three consecutive years. Some schools may receive a waiver if they can demonstrate they have performed testing remediation that substantially complies with the new regulations, and that the potable water in their buildings falls below the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Districts will be reimbursed for testing and repairs using formulas put in place by the legislation.

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Water sampling for lead test

Samples must be analyzed by a lab that has passed the DOH Laboratory Approval Program, such as RJ Lee Group. If the lead levels in the potable water are found to be at or above the action level of 15ppb, actions must be taken to decrease the lead content to bring it below 15ppb, and a remediation plan must be put in place. While the EPA actually recommends that all lead be at 0ppb for children’s drinking water, any exceedance of the action level must be reported to the local health department within one business day of identification, and use of the failing source discontinued until a lead remediation plan is enacted. Once the lead is brought down to acceptable levels, the source can be put back into use.

Written test results must be provided to parents, staff, and local government within 10 business days.  The DOH will be notified of the results as soon as possible through a state-wide electronic reporting system. All results must be posted on the schools’ website no longer than six weeks after the school receives the testing laboratories’ reports. The schools must retest every five years at a minimum, or at a time determined by the Commissioner of Health.

Governor Cuomo issued a statement, saying, “These rigorous new protections for New York’s children include the toughest lead contamination testing standards in the nation and provide clear guidance to schools on when and how they should test their water.”

To learn about RJ Lee Group’s potable water testing for lead and to read the EPA’s document 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools, please click here.

To download a presentation on Lead in Drinking Water, please click below.

 

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