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Arizona's Proactive Public School District Drinking Water Lead Screening Program

ADEQ is committed to the health of Arizona’s children and healthy drinking water in schools. ADEQ coordinated with multiple state and local agencies, public water systems and public schools to proactively conduct a statewide screening program for the presence of lead in school drinking water.

The purpose of this proactive school drinking water screening program was to identify whether school drinking water contains lead levels of concern for children’s health, so that school districts could take appropriate actions to address any identified concerns.

ADEQ funded this six-month, fast-track screening program with support from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the Arizona School Facilities Board (SFB) and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The initial scope aimed to collect and test drinking water samples from drinking water fixtures in public school districts targeted for the highest probability of having an issue and with student populations with the youngest kids | Learn more about the Initial Scope >

To ensure overall success and maximum reach for the screening program, it was critical that participating schools join the sampling team and collect drinking water samples, a very simple process. ADEQ provided all samplers with a toolkit with sample instructions, collection containers and prepaid shipping boxes to mail the samples to contracted laboratories for testing at no cost  to schools. As a result, the initial scope rapidly expanded to encompass screening for all public school districts statewide, thanks to overwhelming voluntary partner support.

The Concern

Lead contamination may be present in school drinking water even when a school’s water provider is in compliance with the federal lead drinking water standard of 15 parts of lead per billion parts of water (15 ppb). School drinking water may become contaminated as water moves through a school’s plumbing system where lead from materials and fixtures, such as water fountains, faucets and water heaters, may leach into the water. The risk of lead leaching increases with intermittent water use (e.g., schools often are closed on weekends and have several extended school breaks throughout the year when water lines are not being flushed).

In Arizona, the most commonly known sources of lead include lead-based paint in older homes, some household products including antique or imported toys, antique furniture, imported spices and candies, “home remedies” and lead-glazed pottery used for cooking. While drinking water is not considered to be a common source of lead in Arizona, eliminating exposure to lead in drinking water is an important step in reducing a child’s overall exposure to lead in the environment | View Most Commonly Known Sources of Lead >