New Jersey Department of Education

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Frequently Asked Questions

Sampling for Lead in Drinking Water in New Jersey Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
New Jersey Department of Education
Updated August 14, 2019

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

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), 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. Because districts must confirm this notification on an annual basis through the Statement of Assurance, the lead test results should not be removed from the website, unless and until there are new lead test results to post.

The regulations also require notification to the NJDOE and to parents in any instance in which the test results exceed the permissible lead action level (15 ppb).  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.

 LEAD SAMPLING

2) What locations in my school should be sampled?

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 the individuals collecting the water samples need to be certified?

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.

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

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.

5) 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?

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

6) 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?

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.

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

If the testing results do not exceed the permissible lead action level (15 ppb), districts do not have to send the NJDOE documentation of testing results. Districts just have to certify, through the annual Statement of Assurance, that lead testing was conducted in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:26-12.4.

If the testing results exceed the permissible lead action level (15 ppb), districts also do not have to send the NJDOE documentation of testing results; however, districts must notify the NJDOE and parents of the excessive level.  The notification should also 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.

All planning materials, the QAPP, plumbing inventory and other documents will be retained by each district.

8) 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?

No. There is no other lead testing required in between the six-year cycles. Each water outlet must be retested at the end of the six-year period.

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

Yes. For more information, refer to the NJDOE's lead-testing webpage. In addition, refer to the NJDEP’s webpage for school lead-testing programs.  

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

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.nj.gov. To contact the NJDEP, email watersupply@dep.nj.gov or call (609) 292-2957.


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