New York mandates schools to test water for lead

Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation requiring all school districts to test their water sources for lead.

The law, which took effect Wednesday, requires schools serving students in pre-K through fifth grade to collect testing samples from each water source by Sept. 30, according to a press released issued this week by the governor’s office.

Buildings with students in grades 6-12 have until Oct. 31 to collect the water samples, which will be tested by the department of health.

Districts must then report those findings to their local health departments within one business day. A letter must also be sent to staff and parents within 10 business days explaining those test results. In addition, districts are required to post the water testing findings on their websites within six weeks.

Schools that have performed water testing and remediation since Jan. 1, 2015, aren’t required to retest their water sources by the current deadlines. However, all school districts will now be required to collect samples every five years.

Before this legislation, schools in New York State weren’t required to test drinking water for lead. Instead, testing was voluntary and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

[Related: What our schools are doing about lead traces found in water]

Riverhead schools announced in May that it had independently tested 250 water sources throughout the district and found four taps where water exceeded federal standards for lead content. Three were on sinks at the middle school — two in the kitchen and one in Room E4 — and on was a sink in Room 103 at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, Superintendent Nancy Carney said at the time.

At Shoreham-Wading River, letters were sent home to parents last month announcing that five locations within three of the district’s buildings contained traces of lead.

Those water sources in both districts have since been replaced, school officials have said.

A national discussion about water quality — specifically lead levels — arose in the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and local school districts began looking internally, testing their own water for the hazardous metal.

The EPA states that ingesting lead can be detrimental to both children and adults, although it’s significantly more harmful to children. According to the EPA website, the standard for safe lead levels in water is less than 15 parts per billion.

[email protected]

Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Credit: File)