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Division of Environmental Health

Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

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Lead in Drinking Water – Schools & Parents

What Schools Should Know

What Parents Should Know

Online Resources

The deadline for schools to request free lead in water test kits has been extended for the foreseeable future. All samples must be returned to the State's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) for analysis. Please see the letter to districts linked below under Online Resources for details on the offer.

Although Maine’s water utilities provide water free from lead, school personnel should test their drinking water to determine if lead is leaching from plumbing within the building. Interior plumbing, soldered joints, leaded brass fittings, and drinking water fountains or faucets are the primary points where lead can enter drinking water.

Testing drinking water in schools is critical because children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Children also spend a lot of time at school, and are likely to consume water while they are there. Drinking water in schools can sometimes have higher amounts of lead due to normal school water use patterns that result in water sitting in pipes in contact with lead in plumbing overnight and on weekends.

The Maine Drinking Water Program, which oversees all public water systems in the state, will cover the cost of lead analysis for up to 10 water samples from a school. The sampling kits will include prepaid postage labels for shipping the kits to the laboratory for analysis. None of the testing costs for the first ten samples will be passed onto schools. However, schools will need to pay for any additional testing required. In some cases, additional testing will be needed and schools should be prepared for this.

Schools and school districts can take advantage of this offer by contacting the State’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory at (207) 287-1716. Limit ten sample kits per school; additional kits can be ordered at a cost of $20 per sample kit.

Whenever possible, schools are encouraged to work with the staff of their water utility on this project to receive guidance on sample collection and remediation, if needed.

Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where should I take water samples?
  2. How should water samples be collected?
  3. Where do I send samples for analysis?
  4. How much lead is too much?
  5. How can schools reduce lead levels in drinking water?
  6. How might a school communicate with parents on the subject of lead?
  1. Where should I take water samples?
    1. High priority:
      • Drinking fountains – sink-mounted and standalone refrigerated units
      • Classroom combination sinks and drinking fountains
      • Classroom sinks in special education classrooms
      • Home economics classroom sinks
      • Teachers’ lounge sink, nurse's office sink
      • Kitchen sinks used to prepare food
      • Other classroom sinks where there is a potential for water consumption (i.e., filling water bottles and classroom cooking projects)
    2. Low priority:
      • Bathroom faucets
      • Utility sinks and hose attachments, unless used to fill water jugs (for example, for sports team practice)
      • Hot water outlets
  2. How should water samples be collected?

    A “first draw” water sample should be collected from a cold-water fountain or faucet that has not been used for 8-18 hours. When collecting the first draw sample, do not flush or run the water before collecting the sample. Remove the cover from the sample container, fill the container with cold water and immediately put the cover back on.

  3. Where do I send samples for analysis?

    The 10 free lead tests available under this program must be analyzed by the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. If a school wants to collect additional samples, the Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory or another certified laboratory can be used.

  4. How much lead is too much?

    The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools stop using faucets and fountains with lead levels higher than 20 ppb (parts per billion).

  5. How can schools reduce lead levels in drinking water?
    • Advise staff and students to run the water for a few seconds before drinking.
    • Remove or replace fixtures that leach lead.
    • Flush the piping system in the building.
    • Provide bottled water.
    • Repair the plumbing system.
    • Use only the cold-water tap for drinking, preparing juice or cooking.
    • Install water treatment devices.
    • Develop a new source of drinking water.
  6. How might a school communicate with parents on the subject of lead?

    Communications with parents can be accomplished by any or all of the following:

    • Sending information home with students
    • Sending information by emails
    • Posting information on the school’s website
    • Posting information during open house and parent/teacher's conference nights

    Example letters can be found at the Online Resources below.

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Online Resources

Parents

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is this becoming an issue now?
  2. What is the actual risk from the elevated levels observed at school?
  3. How do I interpret the lead results the school is supplying me with?
  4. My child may have been exposed to elevated levels of lead at school. Now what?
  1. Why is this becoming an issue now?

    US EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule requires that water utilities monitor for lead and copper levels at suitable locations within their water system. In the past, schools have not been sample sites. Recent events in cities across the United States, such as Flint, Michigan, indicate that lead in drinking water remains an ongoing public health challenge and an important concern for children’s health. In order to address this problem proactively in Maine, we have encouraged all schools that receive their water from a water utility to test their drinking water for the presence of lead.

  2. What is the actual risk from the elevated levels observed at school?

    In young children lead can affect the brain development and cause learning disabilities and behavior problems. In older children and adults ongoing lead poisoning can damage the brain, nervous system and kidneys. It can also cause high blood pressure in older children and adults.

  3. How do I interpret the lead results the school is supplying me with?

    The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools stop using faucets and fountains with lead levels higher than 20 PPB (parts per billion).

  4. My child may have been exposed to elevated levels of lead at school. Now what?

    You should talk to your child’s doctor if you are worried because your child may have been drinking water with lead in it at school. The doctor may ask questions to see if your child is at risk for lead poisoning. The only way to know if your child has been exposed to lead is to have their blood tested.

    To figure out if your child should be tested, you and your child’s doctor should talk about:

    • your child’s age,
    • how much time your child spends at school, including before or after school care or activities,
    • how much water from the school your child drinks in a typical day, and
    • the lead levels found in the school’s drinking water.

    You and your child’s doctor should also talk about other ways your child may be exposed to lead, including:

    • Living or spending time in a house or apartment built before 1978, and especially any homes or apartments that were built before 1950 when lead paint was commonly used.
    • Renovating an older house that contains lead paint.
    • Living with someone who may bring dust from lead paint home on work clothes and shoes (examples: painters, construction workers, metal recyclers).
    • Doing certain hobbies, such as making stained glass, shooting, casting bullets or lead sinkers.
    • Any unusual oral behaviors your child may have, such as chewing on woodwork in the home or eating things that are not food.

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Online Resources

A list of water utilities and their corresponding schools, including school contact information, is provided below. This list reflects our current record of schools served by public water utilities. Despite our best efforts to provide completely accurate data, some information may not be current. Please contact the DWP with any updated information, or general questions about this list.

Maine CDC Drinking Water Program

Maine CDC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Unit:

NSF International:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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