It is important that we have safe and high-quality drinking water in our schools, so we recently decided to conduct water tests for lead. These tests were voluntary, and go above and beyond tests conducted by the Madison Water Utility on drinking water throughout the city.
Our outside water testing group, TRC Environmental Corporation, assessed a total of 1,337 samples within the school district, including drinking fountains, sinks, bottle filling stations and more.
Of the 1,337 samples analyzed, 93% tested below the national standard of 15 parts per billion for lead. Seven percent, or 97 samples, tested above those levels. Those fixtures have all been turned off and are in the process of being repaired or replaced.
- Bubblers (Non-cooled fountains) – 52/550
- Electric water coolers (Cooled fountains) – 2/403
- Bottle filling stations – 0/38
Sinks – 40/304
Ice machines – 0/3
Swimming pools – 0/5
Service connections – 3/34
Consistent with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance, two samples were collected from each of the cold water outlets being tested. The “first draw” sample is taken early in the morning, after water has been sitting in fixtures for more than 8 hours, and is likely to get the highest results. The second “flush” sample is taken after water has been allowed to continuously flow for 30 seconds.
First draw samples, or the highest possible reading, were used to determine whether to turn off and repair or replace fixtures. Flush samples provide more information about the fixture, what was most likely the level when people used it, and what needs to be repaired or replaced.
Both of these samples are included in this district wide report.
Where can I see the results of the voluntary water testing?
What will happen to the disabled fixtures?
Any water sources that come back with lead levels higher than the EPA action limits will be repaired or replaced. They will then be retested and put back into use only after they meet EPA action level.
You may have questions about lead in water, and we want to make sure you get the information you’re looking for. We’ve compiled questions and answers below. If you have additional questions or concerns you don’t see answered here, we encourage you to reach out to your school principal or access some of the resources listed below. You can also submit your question here and district staff will get in touch with you.
Are schools required to test for lead?
We are not required by state or federal law to test drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires our public water system to provide water to our school that is minimally corrosive.
Why did you decide to test the water for lead?
Some school districts throughout the country have found that water samples from their drinking water fixtures have contained relatively high levels of lead. The lead was found to come from the plumbing inside the schools, including fittings, solder, water coolers and water faucets. Because of this information, we decided that testing would be in the best interests of our students, staff, families and community members who use our buildings.
When was the last time you tested for lead?
The last time we conducted a round of voluntary lead testing was in the mid-1990s. In general, the scope of the program focused on testing the water quality at all electric water coolers throughout the district. Water coolers identified as containing lead were replaced and results were made available to schools. All water coolers installed since that time have been constructed in compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act (1986) for "lead free" construction and Standard NSF 61.
What is the EPA Standard for safe drinking water?
Under EPA regulations, municipalities are required to take action if drinking water in more than 10 percent of tested taps exceeds 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead.
Where can I learn more about lead and water?
Read "Madison School District Expands Lead Testing," WSJ, 3.17.17
You can watch a local news report on the district’s efforts to test water here.
For information on the public health effects and risks posed by lead in drinking water, we encourage you to read the EPA article “Lead Exposure: the Risks and Remedies.”
For more information on ways you can reduce lead in your home drinking water, please visit the City of Madison’s Water Quality website.
You can also visit the EPA’s website or call the hotline at 1-800-426-4761.
For information about water quality and sampling for lead at home, contact your local water supplier or state drinking water agency.