Schools Newsletter - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

School Environmental Health Newsletter - Spring 2014

Drinking Water in Schools: New Guidance and Federal Requirements

Reducing Lead in Drinking Water: A Technical Guidance for Minnesota's Schools and Child Care Facilities:

MDH Drinking Water Protection staff are currently revising the manual on reducing lead in drinking water. It is in the final steps of production and will land on your desks this spring.

What is the purpose of this Guidance?
To assist schools and non-residential childcare centers in minimizing the consumption of lead in drinking water by students and staff.

Who should use this Guidance?
School staff such as school health and safety personnel, maintenance personnel, school administrators and consultants working with schools.

How should I develop a lead monitoring and reduction plan in my facility? The Guidance explains the six step process.

Drinking Water Best Management Practices

This guide is intended for use by school officials and child care providers responsible for the maintenance and/ or safety of school and child care facilities including the drinking water. It is a document from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Drinking Water Best Management Practices For Schools and Child Care Facilities Served by Municipal Water Systems (PDF:1MB/18 pages)

This guide describes the best management practices for drinking water in a school or child care facility served by a public water system. The document details the importance of implementing best management practices of drinking water in a school or child care facility and practices a school or child care facility can implement to reduce lead and bacteria in their facility, how to avoid cross contamination and water conservation tips.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act

Lead found in drinking water is typically not from natural water and soil sources. The most common cause of lead concentration in water is due to the corrosion of pipes and plumbing fixtures. In an effort to reduce this contamination, EPA in 1986, amended the SDWA to mandate that all pipes, solders, fittings, and fixtures be lead free. In 2011, the enactment of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act was signed into law and was implemented beginning on January 4, 2014. The act reduces the allowable lead content in plumbing materials by modifying the SDWA definition of lead free.  

As of January 4, 2014, schools must use lead free pipes, solders, fittings, and fixtures is, which is now defined as: 

  • Weighted average of not more than 0.25% in wetted surface material for pipe, pipe and plumbing fittings and fixtures (primarily affects brass/bronze).
  • Retains the 0.20% lead limit for solders and flux as implemented in the 1986 amendments.
  • Inventory that does not meet the 0.25% lead free calculation can’t be installed after January 3, 2014 unless it demonstrates that it meets the exemption criteria.

More information on the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act can be found at:

How to Identify Lead-Free Certification Marks for Drinking Water System & Plumbing Materials (PDF:5938KB/12 pages)

Summary of The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and Frequently Asked Questions (PDF:127KB/14 pages)

Water Intrusion and Mold: Are you Ready to Respond?

Spring brings with it a variety of possible water intrusion problems into school buildings. Some examples include water backed up behind frozen roof drains, rainfall on frozen ground entering buildings, and severe storms dumping massive amounts of rain on saturated soil. Schools should be prepared to respond to these types of problems. MDH recommends inspecting your buildings, preferably seasonally or at least yearly, to see if problems with roof drainage, ground slope, water damage, or structural problems are present.

When water enters a building, the affected area may be apparent. Further investigation may be warranted, to determine the extent of the damage. MDH recommends a minimally invasive inspection, to check hidden areas. Easily accessible areas should be checked, such as crawl spaces, utility tunnels, above ceiling tiles, inside access hatches and movable furnishings, and the like. Using moisture meters, infrared cameras and thin snaking cameras (‘boroscopes’) may also be helpful in mapping out the affected area. It may be necessary to cut a few small holes in dry wall or cabinets, to peel back carpet, and to peel back trim. It may also be helpful to talk to the staff and building maintenance about the history of the room.

When drinking water (for example, a pipe burst) or rainwater enters a building, it may be possible to salvage building materials. In these cases, it’s critical to begin active drying within 24 hours, using equipment such as fans, vacuums and dehumidifiers. Unless the school has access to these equipment, an ongoing arrangement should be made with a water damage restoration company that is available 24/7/365 to immediately respond and begin drying. Do not delay this drying—it will make the difference between being able to keep building materials or having to replace materials at a significant cost.

If sewage or over-land flooding enters a building, the water should be assumed to be contaminated with microorganisms. Absorbent materials (carpet, drywall, insulation, particle board) that came in contact with this contaminated water should be replaced. These materials should also be replaced once mold growth is established. Other semi-porous or non-porous materials (concrete, solid wood, glass, tile) can be cleaned. The use of bleach or other disinfection products as a final treatment step is optional when cleaning just mold, but recommended when cleaning areas affected by sewage or over-land flooding occurred.

Mold remediation should extend to at least one foot, preferably two feet beyond the affected area. So if mold is present two feet up dry wall, removing four feet is best. When cleaning larger mold problems, the work area should be enclosed with plastic walls. Respiratory protection should always be used; depending on the size of the problem, N95 or N100 respirators should be used. There are a variety of service providers in Minnesota that can help with investigating mold, restoring water damage, and removing mold.

MDH recommends adopting a moisture and mold policy in your environmental health plan or other policies. The above information could be used. Such a policy will ensure institutional memory is retained and consistent procedures are followed.

For more information on mold investigation and cleanup, see: School Mold

Using a Laboratory to Help with Environmental Health Plans

Many parts of an environmental health plan can be achieved with careful planning and a thorough visual assessment of a school building. However, there will always be hazards that require the assistance of a qualified analytical laboratory for proper identification. When these hazards arise, how does a school find a quality laboratory? Fortunately many districts contract with consultants to carry out sampling and testing needs. Even for those districts that do use consultants, it is worthwhile for health and safety managers to know the qualities of a good laboratory to ensure that they are receiving good information.

The first step in finding a laboratory is narrowing down the hazards or substance you wish to test for. It sounds simple, but laboratories specialize in certain tests and sampling protocols vary greatly between substances. Lab users cannot simply send in a piece of material or an air sample and ask to have it tested for every known hazard. Every material is going to have an approved laboratory method and consumers want to verify that the laboratory is using the approved method. Approved methods are often written by government agencies such as the EPA, NIOSH or OSHA and ensure that you are receiving a standard result.

Once you have identified the test required, look at the credentials and accreditation status of the lab. Accreditation bodies evaluate laboratories to verify that the lab’s personnel, facilities, methods and QC programs meet certain minimum requirements. By meeting these requirements, labs show that they are capable of providing accurate, comparable and complete data to customers. Most accreditations require laboratories to participate in proficiency testing rounds to show they can produce accurate results. Lab customers need to verify that the lab is accredited for the method of analysis needed. Just because a lab is accredited for one test doesn’t mean they are good for all types of analysis. Common accrediting bodies include state and national Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Programs (ELAP), NIST National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) and groups through professional organizations such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

Contact the laboratory prior to sampling to get information on proper sampling techniques and to obtain sampling containers as needed. Not only is this a convenience for you, it ensures that you are providing an ideal sample for the laboratory to test. Additionally, some procedures (for example: some water tests) have specific time periods (holding times) in which the sample needs to be analyzed. Verify that the laboratory is able to conduct the analysis within the holding time prior to sending in the sample. Discuss with the lab various costs and turnaround times available, and establish what documentation you should submit with your samples.
Before taking any sort of sample for analysis, personnel need to be aware of regulations and training necessary to ensure personal safety. Anyone obtaining samples needs to use the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and take care to prevent contaminating surrounding areas. Sampling for some hazards, such as asbestos and lead, have specific certifications and training requirements established by agencies such as OSHA and MDH.

Contact the Indoor Air Unit for more information:
or toll free 800-798-9050

School Environmental Health Newsletter Summer 2013

School Environmental Health Newsletter - Fall 2013
School Environmental Health Newsletter - Winter 2013

Updated Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 08:04AM