The EPA is tasked with ensuring that Americans have clean air, land, and water. The EPA regulates drinking water for 8000 schools and childcare facilities in the US. That means the vast majority (roughly 600,000) of child-occupied facilities aren’t regulated.
What’s in the water?
The EPA set’s legal limits for 90 different contaminants, lead, and copper, in particular, are two chemicals that have become increasingly common as city’s infrastructure ages.
Coatings within the pipes erode over time, and lead and copper may enter the water. Lead can come from pipes, fixtures, or even faucets. Exposure may be limited to a single building or even a single tap within that building. There are several factors involved in how much lead enters the water:
- High acidity or alkalinity
- The temperature of the water
- The age and ware of the pipes
- How long the water has stayed in the pipes
- How effective protective coating in the plumbing is
Why are lead and copper a big deal?
While exposure to lead and copper can be harmful to anyone, children’s growing bodies absorb lead more readily than adults. Even tiny amounts of lead can cause the following in children:
- Slow growth
- Hearing problems
- Behavior issues
- Learning problems
- Lowered IQ
In extreme cases, ingestion of high levels of lead can cause seizures or even death.
While the EPA doesn’t test most schools, they have set up a voluntary action plan to reduce lead in water. If your child’s school isn’t testing, here are some easy steps you can take-
Training: Education is key! Raising awareness about lead exposure is without a doubt the first step. Once facility officials know about lead in drinking water, they can create a plan of action! For more information about lead, you can learn about it here!
Testing: The only way to be sure there is no lead or copper in the water is through testing. Testing is a fairly in-depth process, where a certified professional will come to your facility. This technician will sample water at multiple locations. The technician may require water to ‘sit’ for an extended period within pipes or for certain pipes to be ‘flushed. Be sure to communicate with your testing company and follow the directions exactly for the greatest accuracy.
The samples are sent to a laboratory, and the results will be delivered. Some consulting firms may offer recommendations on how to fix any issues; others may not.
Taking Action: Once your results have been delivered, steps can be taken to reduce the amount of lead in drinking water to a safer level. Make sure you find a remediation company that has worked with the public water system before and is reputable. This is not the time to cut costs by going with a family friend!
Communicating your plan if you’re an educator:
According to the EPA:
Telling parents and staff about your 3Ts 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 facility’s ability to provide a safe environment.
Choosing a company:
Not all companies have the same level of experience when dealing with heavy metal contamination within the water. Some will simply take a sample, others will go through the leg work of an extensive question-and-answer session, some may even try to get ahold of historical records and perform a preliminary inspection. The long and the short of it is you want a company that works with and for you.
At ETC we’ve helped countless schools, cities, and other municipalities deal with water safety issues. If you’re ready to get some testing done for your child occupied facility or have more questions, be sure to reach out!