Vermont Asks Schools To Prepare For Lead Testing

Jun 7, 2019

The Vermont Department of Health is asking schools to prepare for statewide water testing that is expected to take place in September.

The Legislature passed a law this year that requires all schools and childcare centers to test their water for lead.

The health department wants administrators at every building to do a tap inventory in the coming weeks so the tests can start as soon as students return at the beginning of the upcoming school year.

"There's a lot of work to be done before the end of December 2020, which is the deadline the General Assembly has set," said Michelle Thompson, a public health industrial hygienist with the Department of Health. "There's some prep work that needs to be done beforehand, so by doing the tap inventory now, we have the time to do all of those steps so that schools are ready to start in September."

Schools are being asked to count all of the taps in their buildings and then send the information on to the health department by June 28.

Thompson said after the state has that information, officials can order bottles and equipment to make sure the water testing can start when students return in the fall.

"There's a lot of work to be done before the end of December 2020, which is the deadline the General Assembly has set ... so by doing the tap inventory now, we have the time to do all of those steps so that schools are ready to start in September." — Michelle Thompson, Department of Health

The water testing has to be conducted when people are in the building and water is moving through the pipes.

Thompson said the state will test 425 public and independent schools along with about 1,200 childcare centers.

"We're really looking forward to working with the schools and childcare centers to test for lead and address any elevated levels that are found," she said.

Lead is a toxic metal that is especially dangerous for children.

Vermont did a pilot study in 2017 at 16 schools and lead was discovered at every school. Five of the schools required immediate action because the amount of lead was above the action level.

As part of the bill that was passed in the Legislature this year, the action level was lowered to four parts per billion from 15 parts per billion.

The new law also included money to cover all of the testing, as well as a portion of the remediation that might be required when lead does turn up in the water tests.