In July of 2016, the New Jersey Board of Education adopted mandatory regulations regarding testing for lead content in drinking water in all public schools throughout the state. All school districts were subsequently provided with very specific instructions on development of a plumbing profile and Lead Sampling Plan during state-wide training sessions and must test for lead content at least once every six years.
Initial tests were to be conducted within one year of the law’s passage. Ordered by Gov. Chris Christie, the new rules stipulate precise measures to be used in testing faucets and fountains within New Jersey’s schools.
Here in Mount Laurel, the procedures were anxiously awaited.
“We have been in consultation with the district’s environmental consulting firm for several months on this issue,” explains Assistant Superintendent for Business Robert F. Wachter Jr. “We wanted to get started on testing, but had been advised that districts should wait for the specific procedures in order to be eligible for state reimbursement.”
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, buildings constructed before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 reduced the maximum allowable lead flowing across the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.
Utilizing the state guidelines, the district began testing at the Hillside Elementary School, Mount Laurel’s oldest school, built in 1954. Water fountains throughout the building were sampled, along with the nurse’s office, the faculty room and a small kitchen area. Results of those tests are awaited, and will be shared publicly on the district website and via direct communication with parents.
In addition to the mandated testing, Mount Laurel has installed filters in all fountains and sinks in several schools, and is continuing that measure in the remaining facilities. At Harrington this summer, the entire kitchen, which serves as the district’s primary cooking location for the satellite school lunch program, was re-piped and a new industrial dishwasher was installed.
“The requirements set by the state,” says Wachter, “apply only to drinking water and supplies used for cooking. Should any of our facilities exceed the maximum lead levels stipulated in the law, we are prepared to bring in potable water for those purposes until remediation is completed.”
Additional information on Testing for Lead Content in Drinking Water may be found on the EPA website.