Information for Schools: Lead in Drinking Water
To prevent exposure to lead contamination in the drinking water of Pennsylvania's schools, the Public School Code was amended in June 2018 (by
Act 39 of 2018) to:
- Encourage schools to test for lead in their drinking water;
- Require schools that do not test to discuss lead issues at a public meeting; and
- Implement a plan if results exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) national primary drinking water standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
Under Act 39 of 2018, schools may, but are not required to, test for lead levels annually in the drinking water of any facility where children attend school.
If a school chooses not to test for lead levels, then the school must discuss lead issues in school facilities at a public meeting once a year. This meeting may be a stand-alone meeting or part of an existing public meeting (such as a school board meeting).
Testing for Lead at Schools
Testing water in schools is important because children spend a significant portion of their days in these facilities. The longer water remains in contact with lead plumbing, the more opportunity exists for lead to leach into water. As a result, facilities with on again/off again water use, such as schools, may have elevated lead concentrations in their water. Testing the water at each outlet is the only sure way to find out if the water contains too much lead. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that schools develop a plumbing profile and sampling plan to understand how water enters and flows through the building, as well as identify and prioritize sample sites.
EPA recommends the following sites as priority sample sites: drinking fountains, kitchen sinks, classroom sinks, teachers' lounge sinks, nurse's office sinks, and any other sink known to be used for consumption. EPA recommends that samples be collected in 250 milliliter (mL) sample bottles to better target the sources of lead at an outlet. Samples should be collected before the facility opens and before any water is used. Ideally, the water should sit in the pipes unused for at least 8 hours but not more than 18 hours before a sample is taken.
Schools should test the water using a DEP-accredited lab. A searchable
database of DEP accredited labs is available on the DEP website, which also provides
instructions for using the search function.
Free Lead Testing Program and Resources
With federal funding from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, the Office of Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) recently launched the
Pennsylvania Voluntary Lead in Child Care and School Drinking Water Testing Program.
Eligible schools and childcare facilities can receive free water lead testing and related training and technical support through this program.
Learn more about this program and enroll via
PENNVEST's Contact Us webpage to connect with their team and request answers to questions prior to enrolling.
For more information on testing, including guidance for developing a sampling program and information on remedies, visit the
EPA website. Resources include
EPA's 3Ts Toolkit for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and potential funding sources for schools for water quality related projects and other programs.
Schools with Elevated Lead Levels
If a school tests for lead levels in their drinking water and finds lead levels in excess of the EPA's current action level of 15 ppb, the school must immediately implement a plan to ensure that no child or adult is exposed to lead contaminated drinking water and provide alternate sources of drinking water. Resources on testing for lead and remedies for elevated lead levels are outlined on this webpage.
Lead in Drinking Water Report Form
As required by Act 39 of 2018, elevated lead levels must be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and will be posted on PDE's website. The
Lead in Drinking Water Report Form (PDF) should be used to report any elevated levels in schools. The completed form and/or any questions can be emailed to PDE's Office for Safe Schools:
Schools Reporting Elevated Lead Levels
View a list of schools reporting elevated lead levels from the 2022-23 school year (Excel). This file is updated quarterly and was last updated November 2023.
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Lead and Copper Rule (LCR)
Some schools use their own water source, such as a well, and are regulated as a public water system under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). These schools are required to comply with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). Nothing in the amendments to the Public School Code are intended to supersede the requirements under the SDWA or the LCR. For more information about the LCR, visit the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) website.