September 28, 2018 - Testing for Lead in Drinking Water

As part of all of the work we do in the Ann Arbor Public Schools to attend to the health and wellbeing of all of our students and staff we also have our attention on the quality of our drinking water in our schools. We are committed to achieving the lowest possible levels of lead in drinking water in the AAPS, and take very seriously the risks associated with lead exposure, particularly with our youngest children.

We have voluntarily tested water annually in all AAPS schools since spring, 2016, and we have addressed any and all issues of parts per billion (ppb) measures of >15ppb, established as an action level by the EPA. The next cycle of testing for lead in drinking water is scheduled for October/November, 2018.

With the overall goal of the program to reduce exposure to lead, in this next round of testing we are also lowering the threshold for when we implement the AAPS protocol for addressing an issue. Starting this fall remediation efforts will be implemented when lead levels are at >10 ppb. Additional attention will be paid to water fixtures that are between 5 and 10 ppb.

In addition, we are currently working to replace older water fixtures in schools, and installing water bottle filling stations with lead filters. To help guide us in this work we will conduct an inventory of all drinking water sources across the AAPS.

Testing in AAPS schools is focused on high-priority locations, including drinking fountains, kitchen sinks, and classroom water fixtures. We have increased the number of locations tested at each campus during this time; water testing is conducted by Arch Environmental Group, professional partners to AAPS on environmental issues. Arch Environmental Group fulfills a similar service for 47 other school districts in Michigan.

The AAPS protocol for addressing the issue, when lead levels read at >10ppb, includes flushing & retesting at the location, replacing water fixtures, and, in some cases, replacing water pipes behind the fixture, which is the protocol indicated by water quality experts.

Next steps: 

  1. Install water bottle filling stations with lead filters in all our AAPS schools and encourage students and staff to use these as preferred locations to obtain water for consumption. 
  2. Continue the flushing of all water systems following school breaks, such as summer, Thanksgiving, winter break, and spring break. 
  3. Conduct an inventory of all drinking water sources to ensure attention is paid to all fixtures across the district.
  4. With the Fall, 2018 water testing cycle, increase the number of locations tested in each school, particularly in all preschool, elementary, and K8 locations.
  5. Implement appropriate remediation activities for locations measuring >10ppb across the district. This step will place the AAPS ahead of the State of Michigan adjustment to >12ppb. 
  6. Additional attention will be given to fixtures that test between 5 and 10ppb.
  7. Education for students, staff, and parents: with aged infrastructure across the country, our AAPS community faces the possibility of consuming water containing lead anywhere they go, so following best practices beginning with teaching our students to get drinking water from trusted sources and letting water run until it gets cold.
  8. Install signage in low priority locations, such as bathroom sinks, custodial closets, etc. to advise that water in these locations is not for consumption. 
  9. Add Testing for Lead Drinking Water Program Information as an Annual Report to the Board of Education (as was done in 2016), to ensure the Board and community receive this information updated directly each year. 

In the AAPS, we are committed to the work of preventing and addressing levels of lead in school drinking water, and look forward to maintaining our position as a leading school district in the state on this very critical issue of student health and safety.