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Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water

Frequently Asked Questions

Sampling for Lead in Drinking Water in New Jersey Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
New Jersey Department of Education
September 13, 2016

1) What are the major provisions of the lead-testing requirements for New Jersey schools?

A. On July 13, 2016 the New Jersey State Board of Education adopted regulations requiring testing for lead in drinking water in public schools throughout the state. The regulations require "testing for lead in all drinking water outlets within 365 days of the effective date of the regulations,"which was July 13, 2016. All districts are directed to develop a lead sampling plan that will govern the collection and analysis of drinking water samples. Samples must then be sent to a certified testing laboratory for analysis.

Guidance and Resources: To assist districts through the process, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), has developed guidance documents, including templates of lead testing plans, notification letters, FAQ sheets, and a list of certified testing laboratories. The guidance is available on NJDEP's website.

Notification: Districts must make all test results available at the school facility and on the district's website. The regulations also require notification to the NJDOE and to parents in any instances where positive test results over a certain level are reported. The notification should describe the steps taken to immediately end use of each drinking water outlet where water quality exceeds the permissible lead level and the measures taken to ensure that alternate drinking water has been made available to all students and staff.

Reimbursement: Schools may seek reimbursement of the cost of collecting water samples, laboratory testing and analysis through the NJDOE. In accordance with the regulations, schools may only seek reimbursement for costs incurred after the effective date of the regulations.

Purchasing Testing Services: Both the Morris County Educational Services Commission and the Educational Service Commission of New Jersey have completed their bid process and have cooperative purchasing programs available. Three other Educational Services Commissions – Essex, Hunterdon and Camden ESCs – are currently developing cooperative purchasing programs for lead testing, and the NJDOE will make their contact information available when they have established cooperative pricing programs. 

LEAD SAMPLING

2) What locations in my school should be sampled?

A. Drinking water outlets, as defined by regulations, must be sampled. The Definitions section of the regulations includes the following: "'Drinking water outlet' means any location at a school facility, other facility, or temporary facility, as those terms are defined in this section, where water is expected to be used for consumption or food preparation."  A drinking water outlet includes drinking water fountains and chillers, ice machines, kitchen faucets, cafeteria taps, food preparation sinks, teacher lounge sinks, nurse's office sinks (if an alternate source of drinking water is not provided), and sinks with a bubbler. Sinks in common area bathrooms are NOT locations where water is expected to be consumed; and therefore, do not meet the definition of a drinking water outlet. The regulations also require drinking water outlets in all school facilities to be sampled.  This includes drinking water outlets at school athletic fields, concession stands and satellite buildings.

3) Do water samples collected following remediation efforts qualify for reimbursement?

A. No. The only samples eligible for reimbursement are the original samples required by the regulations and in accordance with the district's lead drinking water sampling plan.

4) Do the individuals collecting the water samples need to be certified?

A. No. However, individuals must receive training, provided by the NJDEP, about the technical guidance and the required sampling procedures. All responsible entities are required to review, comply and sign the school district's Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP).  By signing the QAPP, all individuals are agreeing to perform all tasks in accordance with the developed sampling plans.

5) What water sampling training will be provided?

A. The NJDOE and NJDEP will co-host regional training programs. The targeted audiences are directors of buildings & grounds and business administrators, and local officials may find it beneficial if two senior people from the facilities office attend. Register through the following links:

Additional information and registration can be found on the NJDOE lead-testing webpage.

6) What is the level of lead when remediation action must be taken?

A. The current action level is the Federal action level of 15ug/L.  It should be noted that the regulations refer to the federal lead action level; therefore, this value may change if the EPA revises the lead action level in the Federal Lead and Copper Rule in the future.

7) The "NJDEP's Lead Sampling in School and Child Care Facilities Guidance" suggests initial draw samples be collected, and if the results exceed the action limit, that follow-up 30 second flush samples be collected.  Is there a preferred process districts should follow to minimize labor and testing costs?

A. Each district will need to make its decision about the most effective process to follow. Samples collected must be analyzed by a NJ-certified laboratory utilizing an EPA approved method.  Sample procedures are outlined in NJDEP's Quick Reference Guide Sampling for Lead in Drinking Water in Schools. In order to make the most effective use of the limited funds available to reimburse districts, the NJDOE will NOT reimburse districts for flush sample analysis where the initial sample did not exceed the action limit.  Therefore, if first draw and flushed samples are collected during the same day, the school district should coordinate with their laboratory to only analyze those flushed samples when the first draw sample result is greater than the lead action level.

8) Among the requirements are for districts to complete a plumbing survey and a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). If a school district conducted lead testing of its drinking water prior to the July 13, 2016 start date but it did not complete a plumbing survey or a QAPP, as it was not required at the time of the sampling, will the district qualify for the exemption or will it be required to conduct testing again?

A. The regulations state "a district board of education may apply to the Department for an exemption from the initial testing if it can demonstrate that it complied with or exceeded the testing requirements outlined in the regulations, within five years prior to July 13, 2016." The testing requirements include all the planning documentation essential for ensuring a successful testing program including the QAPP, the plumbing inventory and other essential documents. With its request for an exemption, the district will submit to the DOE a DEP Guidance Checklist document, signed by the Chief School Administrator, assuring that all required steps were completed.

9) What documentation of testing results must a district send to the DOE?

A. All planning materials, the QAPP, plumbing inventory and other documents will be retained by each district. All "acceptable level" test results will also be retained by each district. The regulations state the following: "If any results exceed the permissible lead action level, provide written notification to the parents/guardians of all students attending the facility, as well as to the Department. This notification shall include a description of the measures taken by the district board of education to immediately end use of each drinking water outlet where water quality exceeds the permissible lead action level, the measures taken to ensure that alternate drinking water has been made available to all students and staff members, and information regarding the health effects of lead."  This information must also be sent to the NJDOE County Office in which the district resides.

10) In between the initial post-remediation retest and the next scheduled six-year requirement to test all outlets, is there a minimum number of required lead tests at treated fixtures?

A. There is no other lead in drinking water sampling required. Each water outlet must be retested at the end of the six-year period.

11) Are there online resources with additional information about the lead-testing program?

A. Yes. The NJDOE's lead-testing webpage is http://www.nj.gov/education/lead/

In addition, the NJDEP created a webpage for school lead-testing programs at http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/dwc-lead-schools.html.

REIMBURSEMENTS

12) What costs are eligible for reimbursement?

A. Costs for water sample collection, laboratory testing and analysis are eligible for reimbursement. The development of the QAPP and other planning documents or the cost of any remediation are not eligible for reimbursement. The text in state regulations is as follows: "All district boards of education are eligible to be reimbursed for the water supply testing and analysis conducted pursuant to (d) above after the effective date of these regulations." No other costs are eligible for reimbursement. The effective date according to the regulations is July 13, 2016. Costs incurred prior to that date are not eligible for reimbursement.

13) Many school buildings have bathroom sinks that will be designated as NOT for drinking water.  Will the cost for sampling and analysis of sinks designated NOT for drinking water usage be reimbursed?

A. No. Reimbursement will be made solely for those drinking water outlets identified in the NJDEP's guidance documents and stated in the previous answer.  If a school district has an additional drinking water outlet not identified above, it should be documented in the school district's sampling plan.

14) Is there a form available on the website for water testing reimbursement for the districts?

A. The NJDOE is developing procedures for submitting reimbursement requests. During this submission, each district will be required to submit a Statement of Assurance (SOA) which will include (1) the assurance that all testing meets or exceeds the guidelines developed by the NJDEP and (2) the amount requested in the reimbursement request covers only the expenses for water sample collection, laboratory testing and analysis.

15) May a school district withdraw funds from its Capital Reserve Account to address the cost of testing and/or remediation? 

A. No. Capital reserve funds can be used for sampling, but may only be used for remediation under certain circumstances. N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-14.1 (-b) prohibits a District from using capital reserve funds for current expenses, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:22-8.2. The required lead water testing should be clearly incorporated into the schedule "School Facility System Maintenance Categories" as "required maintenance."  Required maintenance is an item considered to be a "current expense" (Fund 11), so capital reserve withdrawal would not be appropriate to fund the required interval testing.  The NJDOE maintains a listing of routine, required, and capital maintenance.  

The NJDOE Finance Office has proposed that for current expenditures related to water testing:

Expenses:
District expenses for lead testing of drinking water (pursuant to new code N.J.A.C. 6A:26-12.4(d)) will be recorded in the general fund in new object code 421.  This line will be included in the Required Maintenance program (new account number 11-000-261-421, new line number 48530).  Since this is part of a Required Maintenance program, the district would be eligible for funding by withdrawal from Maintenance Reserve.  Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-14.2(d), withdrawals from the maintenance reserve may be done by school board resolution during the year, and maintenance reserve is only used for required maintenance activities.

Revenue:
Revenue to districts for state reimbursement for lead testing will be recorded in general fund in new revenue code 3300, new line number 505, in the general fund Revenue from State Sources section.

Summary:
These two new lines described above will provide for analysis of which districts performed the testing in a given year, and how much the state is reimbursing for the costs.

Descriptions of new accounts from the draft 2016-17 Chart of Accounts:
Object Code:
421 Lead Testing of Drinking Water.  Payments made by districts to sample and analyze drinking water in educational facilities, pursuant to rules at N.J.A.C. 6A:26-12.4(d).
 Used only with Function 261.

Revenue Code:
3300  State Reimbursements for Lead Testing of Drinking Water.  Payments made by the state to reimburse districts for testing of drinking water in educational facilities pursuant to rules at N.J.A.C. 6A:26-12.4(d).

Expenses for any capital items likely to include major repairs to, or replacements of systems related to water delivery, that are required to be performed as a result of the required testing would follow the existing accounting for capital expenditures (Fund 12 or Fund 30).  If the capital improvements meet the requirements at N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-14.1 (including inclusion in the Long Range Facility Plan, e.g.), those costs could be funded through a withdrawal from capital reserve as outlined at N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-14.1(h).

16) Do lead samples collected following remediation efforts qualify for reimbursement?

A. No. The only samples eligible for reimbursement are the original samples done according to the district's lead in water sampling plan.

17) How do I contact the NJDOE or NJDEP if I have more questions?

A. Note that the NJDEP is the lead agency regarding environmental health issues, including lead sampling, and the NJDOE has oversight over the reimbursement program. To contact the NJDOE, email leadtesting@doe.state.nj.us. To contact the NJDEP, email watersupply@dep.nj.gov or call (609) 292-2957.