In September, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation mandating that all of New York State's nearly 700 public school districts test their drinking water systems to ensure compliance with current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. The legislation, the first in the nation to mandate statewide testing of water in schools, has very specific parameters concerning acceptable lead levels and how testing must be performed.
Under the new testing plan, every potable outlet used for drinking water or food preparation must be tested, utilizing the 'first-draw' method, whereby water samples are taken from a cold-water outlet where the water has been motionless in the pipes for a period of eight to 18 hours.
The state plan calls for elementary school buildings to be tested first, followed by middle schools, and high schools. Since much of the problem is thought to stem from lead leeching out of older plumbing components, the law only applies to buildings built prior to 1986. Schools must collect first-draw samples again in 2020, or at an earlier time as determined by the State Commissioner of Health. Sampling will be required at least every five years thereafter.
Such testing was last performed in the Lancaster Central School District in 1988. At that time, dozens of samples were taken, all of which came back well below the existing EPA standard. Since then, the EPA has revised the standard for acceptable parts per billion of the presence of led in potable water.
Once results are reported by the testing lab, they will be promptly posted on our website, as well as an outline of prescribed steps for remediation, if necessary. Results are being reported to us in the following order: K-3 elementary schools and pre-K building first; then William Street School; then the middle school and high school.
Here are some online resources to learn more about lead in drinking water, and its potential impact: