Lead sampling at K-12 schools in California

Lead sampling in schools in Orange County does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District).  OCWD is a groundwater supplier, not a community water system and does not distribute or serve potable water to schools.  While OCWD monitors for lead at drinking water wells throughout the groundwater basin on a required frequency of every three years, the lead sampling in schools requirement will be administered by community water systems, such as the city water utility departments or water districts.

Contacts

State Water Resources Control Board - Extensive information about lead testing in California schools and contact information

Contact information for local water providers in north and central Orange County

Frequently asked questions

OCWD monitors lead, along with minerals and other metals, to ensure the groundwater continually meets the established California drinking water standards regulated by the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water (DDW).  The District’s groundwater monitoring has shown lead results that are less than the Action Level of 15 ppb and most lead results are below the state detection level of 5 ppb. OCWD will continue to monitor lead throughout the groundwater basin at drinking water wells and at hundreds of monitoring wells to ensure the quality of Orange County’s groundwater resource. 

Existing and new requirements

Under the federal Lead and Copper Rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) already requires public water systems to test for lead at customers’ taps, targeting the highest risk homes based on the age of their plumbing. California’s compliance rate with the Lead and Copper Rule is among the highest in the country, but the rule does not require testing for schools and businesses.

The DDW issued an amended permit on January 17, 2017 to all community water systems that serve potable (drinking) water to schools. Pursuant to the amended permit, all community water systems in California are required to test the schools in their service area for lead if sampling is requested by the schools’ officials.

Testing 

Under this new permit amendment, school officials can voluntarily request in writing that their water provider sample their school’s potable water for lead. School administrators may request that their public water system collect and analyze up to five water samples at each K-12 school served by the water system. 

Once a request has been filed, their water provider has 60 days to make contact with the school to schedule a meeting to develop a sampling plan. Water systems have a total of 90 days from the time the request is received to finalize the sampling plan and to conduct sampling at the school. Alternatively, a water system may submit a sampling schedule to the Division of Drinking Water if the 90 days cannot be met.  Outlets for sampling can be at regularly used drinking fountains, cafeteria/food preparation areas and reusable water bottle filling stations. 

Costs

The community water systems are responsible for the costs associated with collecting drinking water samples, analyzing them and reporting results through this new program. Schools will be responsible for any maintenance or corrections needed at their schools. 

To assist schools in providing access to, and the quality of, drinking water in public schools pursuant to Senate Bill 828 (2016), the State Water Board established a new grant program.  Approximately $9.5 million is available for schools to install water bottle filling stations, install or replace drinking water fountains, and for the installation of treatment devices at these locations that are capable of removing contaminants from drinking water. You can find additional information about the Drinking Water for Schools Grant Program online.