Success Story

EPA Collaborates to Ensure Safe Drinking Water at Schools and Childcare Facilities

Water is essential to our lives and plays an important role in overall health. Accessible drinking water in schools and childcare facilities, where children spend a significant portion of their days, offers children a healthy drinking option. As we encourage our children to drink tap water, we need to ensure that the water they are drinking is safe.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is partnering with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Calhoun County, Mich., in a three-year project to reduce children’s exposure to lead in drinking water. The project, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), involves multiple EPA offices, and is spearheaded by EPA’s Office of Water (OW) and supported by the Office of Research and Development (ORD), as well as numerous regional laboratories.

The best way to know whether a school or childcare facility’s water might have elevated levels of lead, for which children are at a particular risk of exposure, is by testing tap water at these facilities.

Under the CRADA, the Calhoun County Public Health Department is testing for lead in drinking water at approximately 75 facilities in the Calhoun County area. EPA’s OW and ORD are providing technical assistance; and Regions 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 are conducting the analyses on the samples collected. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is providing financial support to Calhoun County for this effort.

Where unsafe lead levels are discovered, various technologies will be implemented to remediate or mitigate the contamination. Currently, nine schools or childcare facilities had outlets with lead levels above 20 ppb. The remediation included flushing and plumbing component replacement. ORD and OW are assisting with identification of the appropriate remediation technology.

The data collected for this project provides valuable information on lead variability in schools and childcare facilities, before and after remediation. This data will help inform other schools across the nation about the frequency with which they should conduct lead testing. The project highlights costeffective remediation practices and technologies that schools can implement to reduce lead in drinking water. It also provides valuable cost information on these technologies, assisting EPA and communities in better understanding the costs involved with this type of lead remediation. And overall, the project will result in a decrease in lead exposure to children and staff at the facilities where these children spend a significant portion of their day.

In 2005, EPA announced the Drinking Water Lead Reduction Plan, which outlined actions the Agency would undertake in response to its review of the Lead and Copper Rule. Under the plan, the Agency stated it would continue to work with partners to promote research in key areas and efforts to protect children from lead. This CRADA allows EPA to further these goals, and helps Calhoun County make its schools and childcare facilities healthier.