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Lower High Falls, Talladega Forest - Bill Wilson
2017-2019 ADEM Lead Testing In Public Schools Program

There is currently no federal or state regulatory requirement for testing lead levels in the drinking water at schools. However, because school aged children are especially vulnerable to the adverse health effects of elevated lead levels, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) joined together in March of 2016 to develop a voluntary school testing program. In December of 2016, the Master Plan and the detailed Sampling Plan for the program were finalized and posted on the ADEM website.

The goal of this program was to test the approximately 1,500 public schools, which consist of approximately 8,000 buildings. Testing began in April of 2017 and was completed in 2019. The Sampling Plan was based on EPA's "3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools" technical guidance document. The 3Ts (Training, Testing, and Telling) assist local school systems to select the appropriate buildings and sampling locations for testing. Site selection is based on plumbing fixture type, age, and accessibility to students and staff, with at least one water cooler and one kitchen sink tested at each school.

All samples were collected by the school system, a certified laboratory, the public water system that serves the school, or an entity approved by ADEM. Training was available from either ADEM, the Alabama Rural Water Association (ARWA), or the Rural Communities Assistance Program (RCAP). The plan called for samples to be collected during the hotter months (August, September, April and May), as that is the time of year that lead levels would be expected to be highest.

The samples were analyzed by state-certified laboratories. All results are available for inspection in the Department's eFile system. (See http://app.adem.alabama.gov/eFile/ and select Media Area "Water", check "Custom Query", and select document category/type "SCHLAC")

Over 1,000 public schools have submitted results. 99.5% of the samples collected and analyzed had lead levels below the action level established for schools. Half of the schools had lead levels below detection limits. ADEM worked with the schools that had results over the action level to ensure the affected fixtures were taken out of service, replaced and/or resampled to acceptable levels.

View a summary of the 2017-2019 program results here.

NEW - 2021 Lead Testing Program

ADEM and ALSDE are resuming sampling of drinking water in the State's public schools, beginning in the fall of 2021. This partnership is supported by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will be in addition to an ongoing sampling program for childcare centers. This project marks a return to sampling drinking water at public schools, after a successful three-year effort in 2017-2019.

The program is based on EPA's popular "3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water" guidance used by schools and childcare centers across the country.  This program emphasizes training, testing, and taking action to reduce lead exposure through drinking water.  Participating schools will be provided training and resources needed to self-evaluate and select fixtures for testing.  The samples will be delivered to the State Drinking Water Laboratory for analysis at no cost to the schools. The program calls for schools to share the results with students, parents, and staff, and periodic reports will also be available on this web page.

ADEM has recruited the Alabama Rural Water Association to assist in this effort.  ARWA will be hosting training sessions for school personnel on the recently-revised 3Ts program and will provide technical assistance as needed to make this program a success.  The program will focus first on schools located in low-income counties, and on schools that did not participate in the 2017-2019 program.  More information will be posted here as it becomes available.

In the future, it is expected that EPA will mandate public water systems to sample schools and child care facilities for lead. Should this occur, Alabama schools will be especially prepared to work with these utilities to establish meaningful sampling programs.