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EPA Pacific Southwest: Testing for Lead in Drinking Water at Tribal Schools

The Testing for Lead in Drinking Water at Tribal Schools Project is a voluntary effort of EPA, tribal governments, schools, and water utilities to identify children’s facilities on EPA tribal lands in EPA's Pacific Southwest (Region 9) that may have lead in drinking water. The project includes lab analysis for facilities not typically sampled to determine lead concentrations in drinking water and to provide educa­tion and assistance to reduce lead exposure.

On this page:

What Schools are Eligible for the Project?

All Schools, Head Starts, Day Care or Educational Facilities on tribal lands in the EPA's Pacific Southwest (EPA Region 9) that meet these criteria:
  • Serve drinking water on a regular basis to children
  • Have NOT already been sampled – i.e., schools that serve as their own public water system (PWS)
  • Located on tribal lands in EPA Region 9
  • Have leadership support for participation

If you represent an eligible school that would like to be sampled, please contact your EPA Region 9 Tribal Drinking Water Program Manager. For Sampling Procedures and information to proceed with sampling, see below.

Project Procedures

The Testing for Lead in Drinking Water at Tribal Schools Project includes lab analysis for facilities not typically sampled to determine lead concentrations in drinking water and to provide educa­tion and assistance to reduce exposure. The entire project – filling of forms, sampling, and following recommendations are all voluntary. However, if a school chooses to be sampled, they must follow the sampling procedures outlined by the Quality Assurance Project Plan to ensure that accurate data is collected and reliable recommendations can be made. Here is an outline of the sampling procedure.

Pre-Sampling Procedures

Prior to sampling, a questionnaire and inventory form need to be filled out. This form will help guide the sampling procedures with information such as:
  • Contact information – The primary school representative who will receive the results and can forward the results to any of the appropriate individuals.
  • Plumbing information – Any plumbing information regarding materials, dates, and repairs will help guide recommendations.
  • Faucet/Tap locations – All the locations where children drink water (drinking fountains or sinks NOT janitor sinks or bathroom sinks) should be inventoried to help us to select appropriate sampling sites.

Sampling Procedures

To proceed with sampling, the school criteria must be met and the questionnaire and inventory form must be completed. You must coordinate with your EPA Region 9 Tribal Drinking Water Program Manager to receive the chain of custody form and confirm sample site locations.

Sampling at each school will be conducted with the same procedures. Sampling directions for this project can be seen here. Some important information includes:
  • The number of samples taken at each site will be limited to either five per school, or two per building, whichever is greater, at each facility.
  • Initial sampling will be 250-mL “first draw” Samples – the water must have 6 -36 hours of stagnation.
  • The samples must be returned to the lab within 2 weeks of sampling.

Next Steps

Once EPA Region 9 receives sample results for each school, we will forward those results to the primary school contact with any appropriate recommendations. If sample results show lead concentrations above 15 parts per billion (ppb), we will continue with follow-up sampling as soon as possible to obtain more information. Where sample results show lead concentrations below the level of concern (15 ppb), follow-up sampling would not be triggered. Any amount of lead in drinking water may be harmful to human health, but lower levels pose a lower risk and will not prompt further action by EPA Region 9.

Technical Consultation

Throughout the duration of the project, including after sampling is completed for a school, EPA Region 9 is available for technical consultation regarding lead in drinking water sampling and guidance. For technical consultation, please contact your EPA Region 9 Tribal Drinking Water Program Manager or Karly Ho (ho.karly@epa.gov), (415)972-3458.

If schools want to conduct additional outreach regarding lead in children’s health and/or other environmental children’s health issues, please contact: Jackie Menghrajani (menghrajani.jacquelyn@epa.gov), EPA Region 9, (415) 972-3259.

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