News Update I - Lead in Drinking Water
As School Districts in New Jersey continue to report elevated lead levels in their drinking water, the pressure to test is increasing for all Districts. As a result, the State Senate and Assembly are taking action. A bill was recently introduced to the legislature requiring all public and non-public schools to test their drinking water for the presence of lead. IMPORTANTLY, the legislation includes an appropriation for reimbursing Districts for testing and for the costs for remedial actions that might be necessary if elevated lead levels are identified.
As you might expect, one of the most common District concerns is the cost of testing. This is especially important to large Districts with many buildings and numerous potable water outlets. The cost of testing varies depending on the sampling approach. Some Districts are sampling small numbers of representative fixtures, while others are taking a more comprehensive approach, and testing all outlets for water with a high potential for human consumption. The USEPA currently recommends testing of all at-risk fixtures to fully evaluate the risks. This comprehensive approach will likely be included in any NJDEP guidelines to be issued in response to the pending legislation outlined below. In general, the more outlets that are sampled, the more useful the data and higher the confidence that testing is representative of actual conditions throughout the District.
For Districts delaying testing due to cost concerns, we offer these insights:
- HELP IS ON THE WAY (HOPEFULLY). State Senate Bill No. 2022 and its companion Assembly Bill No. 3680 were introduced in the legislature on April 18, 2016. Upon passage, the legislation will require all public and non-public schools to test their drinking water for the presence of lead. It is anticipated to take effect for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. Testing shall be in accordance with NJ Department of Environmental Protections (NJDEP) and NJ Department of Education (NJDE) guidelines. It will also require follow-up monitoring testing 2 times per year. Districts will have to provide all test results to the NJDEP, NJDE, public and parents/guardians of students. And, as highlighted above, the legislation includes an appropriation for reimbursing Districts for testing and for the costs for remedial actions that might be necessary if elevated lead levels are identified.
WE URGE ALL SCHOOLS DISTRICTS TO IMMEDIATELY CONTACT THEIR LEGISLATORS IN SUPPORT OF THIS LEGISLATION. Click for a link to the proposed legislation.
- THE COST IS MEASURED IN MORE THAN JUST TESTING DOLLARS. Districts must consider the real risks and costs associated with potential unidentified elevated lead in their drinking water. These risks/costs range from the human toll on children consuming contaminated water to the potential costs associated with litigation and medical claims.
- COSTS FOR TESTING MAY BE LESS THAN EXPECTED. As testing volumes have increased across the State, many labs have reduced their per-test cost. Some consultants (like GSE) have also reduced their fees to assist as many Districts as possible. Further, in many cases, only 1 sample per outlet may need to be analyzed. If the first draw samples are below the USEPA recommended Action Level of 15 parts per billion (PPB), the flush samples may not need to be analyzed, saving the District considerable cost. Some exceptions may apply depending on the actual first draw results and other factors. Assistance by District personnel in properly completing plumbing inventories and pre-flushing will also help control costs.
GSE is qualified and prepared to provide all of the testing and consulting services your District needs to properly and cost effectively address this critical issue.