Lead Testing of School Drinking Water—January 3, 2017


    Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff and Stakeholders,

    Recent events in the news have highlighted water conditions in several locations across this country, including areas in our region. During the recent New York State legislation session, a bill was passed specifically pertaining to water testing in school districts.

    Safe and healthy school environments can foster healthy and successful children. To protect public health, the Public Health Law and New York State Health Department (NYSDOH) regulations require that all public schools and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) test lead levels in water from every outlet that is being used, or could potentially be used, for drinking or cooking. If lead is found at any water outlet at levels above 15 parts per billion (ppb), which is equal to 15 micrograms per liter (µg/L), the NYSDOH requires that the school take action to reduce the exposure to lead.

    Our district, with the assistance of the Jefferson-Lewis BOCES Health and Safety Office, took samples from drinking water sources such as water bubblers, drinking fountains, and sinks typically used for water consumption. Additionally, such locations as custodial closet slop sinks, bathroom sinks, and other locations that are not typically used as sources of drinking water were also tested. 

    What buildings within the District were tested?

    Water testing has been completed in all three buildings (Dexter Elementary, Brownville Glen Park Elementary, and the Jr.-Sr. High School). 

    What is first-draw testing of school drinking water for lead?

    The “on-again, off-again” nature of water use at most schools can raise lead levels in school drinking water. Water that remains in pipes overnight, over a weekend, or over vacation periods stays in contact with lead pipes or lead solder and, as a result, could contain higher levels of lead. This is why schools are required to collect a sample after the water has been sitting in the plumbing system for a certain period of time. This “first draw” sample is likely to show higher levels of lead for that outlet than what you would see if you sampled after using the water continuously. However, even if the first draw sample does not reflect what you would see with continuous usage, it is still important because it can identify outlets that have elevated lead levels.

    What did the results of the testing reveal?

    To date, we have received results back for all three school buildings. The results of the testing revealed lead concentration in some areas throughout the buildings above the New York State Department of Health requirement of 15 ppb (part per billion). This is a localized issue dealing with the water fixtures themselves not an issue pertaining to the water supply. These elevated levels can be a result of many factors, such as, age of the fixture (original construction) or very often, a lack of use.  



    What is being done in response to the results?

    The district has taken immediate action of isolating those affected locations. Please be aware that students and staff still have many locations for accessing water such as drinking fountains that have tested below the standard. The majority of the affected locations are in areas not often accessed by students or staff. The students may still utilize sink locations for personal hygiene use but not for drinking purposes. Staff is well aware of any and all affected locations and will monitor students carefully. We have posted signs in those locations so there is no confusion as to the use.

    nonpotable water  
  • Notice
  • Outlets that tested with lead levels above the action level (15 ppb) were removed from service, unless an outlet is a sink faucet needed for handwashing. In that case, a sign was posted at the outlet indicating that the sink is not to be used for drinking (please see above). Outlets that tested below the action level remain in service with no restrictions.

    All areas affected have been put on a prioritized list (all areas used for consumption have first priority) slated for fixture or equipment REMOVAL/REPLACEMENT over the next few weeks and will be retested prior to being placed back into service. 

    What are the health effects of lead?

    Lead is a metal that can harm children and adults when it gets into their bodies. Lead is a known neurotoxin, particularly harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of children under 6 years old. Lead can harm a young child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn. Lead exposure during pregnancy may contribute to low birth weight and developmental delays in infants. There are many sources of lead exposure in the environment, and it is important to reduce all lead exposures as much as possible. Water testing helps identify and correct possible sources of lead that contribute to exposure from drinking water.

    What are the other sources of lead exposure?

    Lead is a metal that has been used for centuries for many purposes, resulting in widespread distribution in the environment. Major sources of lead exposure include lead-based paint in older housing, and lead that built up over decades in soil and dust due to historical use of lead in gasoline, paint, and manufacturing. Lead can also be found in a number of consumer products, including certain types of pottery, pewter, brass fixtures, foods, plumbing materials, and cosmetics. Lead seldom occurs naturally in water supplies but drinking water could become a possible source of lead exposure if the building’s plumbing contains lead. The primary source of lead exposure for most children with elevated blood-lead levels is lead-based paint. 

    Should your child be tested for lead?

    The risk to an individual child from past exposure to elevated lead in drinking water depends on many factors; for example, a child’s age, weight, amount of water consumed, and the amount of lead in the water. Children may also be exposed to other significant sources of lead including paint, soil and dust. Since blood lead testing is the only way to determine a child’s blood lead level, parents should discuss their child’s health history with their child’s physician to determine if blood lead testing is appropriate. Pregnant women or women of childbearing age should also consider discussing this matter with their physician. 


    For information about lead in school drinking water, go to:



    For information about NYS Department of Health Lead Poisoning Prevention, go to: http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/

    For more information on blood lead testing and ways to reduce your child’s risk of exposure to lead, see “What Your Child’s Blood Lead Test Means”:

    http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2526/ (available in ten languages).

    We will continue to update you as more information becomes available. Thank you.