Delaware Department of Education (DOE) applies for a Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) grant to test drinking water in schools.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards DOE a $200,000 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) grant. The project to be managed by the DOE, with technical support from the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH).
The press announcement for this grant can be found here:
October 2020-January 2022
- The first round of water sampling and testing of consumption and non-consumption sites occurred in Delaware public schools. During this time, DOE shared results with district facility leads as they were received.
- During the initial round of this initiative, the Delaware Public Health Laboratory (DPHL or ‘the Lab’) provided instructions to school districts on how to conduct testing. School maintenance staff conducted the sampling, and provided the samples to the DPHL for analysis.
- DOE had 14 days to notify the DPHL when a sample was collected by a school, and schools were responsible for delivering the sample within that 14-day window to the Lab. Initial testing and analysis took, on average, a week from sample receipt.
- When a test produced a lead exceedance result, the Lab notified the DOE point of contact and an EPA certified collector for recollection.
- The certified collector would coordinate with the school that had the exceedance for recollection. Those sites were to have fixtures covered/unused upon notification of the exceedance to allow for first draw of resampling for exceedance confirmation.
January 15, 2021
EPA publishes Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) in the Federal Register on January 15, 2021. The Rule became effective December 16, 2021, and the compliance date is October 16, 2024.
- The Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan is announced.
- EPA announces the development of a new regulation, Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), to better protect communities from exposure to lead in drinking water.
- DOE and DPH meet to discuss the results of the testing. DPH provided advice on next steps and began coordinating resampling with schools and districts.
- Schools with samples over 15 ug/L were prioritized for resampling.
- 15 ug/L is the EPA Action Level of lead in drinking water and is a regulatory level recognized throughout the country.
- Once DPH completed resampling of the fixtures above 15 ug/L, which are the levels of highest concern and priority, they continued down the list of impacted facilities to prioritize resampling of buildings with initial results below 15 ug/L and above 7.5 ug/L. With the resampling efforts already conducted this year, DPH saw results significantly decrease at fixtures of focus and system-wide. This allows the state to get a better picture of the levels at fixtures within a system under normal usage patterns and not the initial sampling phase with the impacts of COVID-19.
- DPH communicated directly with district maintenance personnel about the results of the resampling, provided advice on next steps and began coordinating resampling with schools and districts, ensuring that impacted fixtures were turned off while resampling occurred.
- The resampling was performed by contractors and DPH staff.
- Resampling began.
- In this round, only consumption sites were targeted. Non-consumption sites were previously tested, but those fell outside of the purview of the grant.
- DPH’s Office of Health Systems Protection (HSP) did approximately 90% of resampling efforts, and the remainder was conducted by a third party contractor – SERCAP. In-depth training on how to conduct sampling was provided by HSP staff to SERCAP. SERCAP’s mission is to improve the quality of life for low-income individuals by promoting affordable water and wastewater facilities, community development, environmental health, and economic self-sufficiency.
- Testing was done at the DPHL and were provided to DPH’s Health Systems Protection Staff and DOE. DPH then provided resampling results to school maintenance staff.
- The results were used to identify fixtures/locations where remediation was needed.
- 21 schools were identified as having fixtures above 15 ug/L, with approximately 61 fixtures spread across those schools.
- Sampling continued to identify sources and confirm risk reduction strategy effectiveness, including follow-up sampling and confirming the filter is working correctly and sufficiently reducing levels.
- Charter directors, school district superintendents and public information officers were notified of planned publication of results on the Division of Public Health website. DOE provided communication materials to share with their school communities.
- DPH posted test results on the webpage within five days of notification to districts:
July – October 2022
- DOE and DPH continued to work with individual schools and districts to address fixtures with elevated results, which may have included resampling, filter installation, and fixture replacement.
- October 27: DOE hosted a quarterly meeting with school facility points of contact that included a summary of the project history, status, and next steps, including the Delaware Department of Education’s intent to improve communications on this topic.
- November 2: EPA asked DOE to pause sampling due to errors in the testing process. Initial sampling was not done on consumption-based water sources as outlined in the grant. DOE and DPH began gathering information requested by EPA.
- Information about WIIN 2107 samples collected to date, including:
- Original results
- Follow-up results (linked to original results, where applicable), including documentation about how follow-up sampling adhered to grant terms and conditions
- Description of mitigative steps taken for each outlet testing red or yellow, per Delaware’s designation (e.g., removing taps from service, installing bottle filling stations, providing bottled water, and any retesting prior to the “pause in activity” issued on 11/2/22), and the dates mitigation occurred.
- Detailed information about consumptive taps removed from service.
- Where schools have consumptive taps that are comparable (similar model, date of installation, etc.) to taps that have been tested in the same building with elevated results: remove those taps from service until future testing can occur.
- If removing consumptive taps from service results in lack of available consumptive taps within a school, bottled water should be provided. Include information about how this process will occur.
- Where schools have consumptive taps that are comparable to sampled taps that do not have elevated results, provide details about sampling processes for evaluation of compliance with 3Ts and continue to use those taps.
- Explanation of processes for future follow-up and new sampling (e.g., prioritization processes for resampling consumptive locations with previously elevated results, sample location selection, ensuring appropriate stagnation time, etc.).
- For consumption points where filters are used, describe the process to ensure that filters are certified to remove lead and are replaced appropriately.
- Document changes to sampling and communication processes related to grant terms and conditions and 3Ts guidance (e.g., who will conduct sampling, where and when samples will be collected, how stagnation times will be recorded).
- Clarification of lead levels at which mitigative action will be taken
- MOU between DOE and DHSS
- Communication plan, including any material to be shared with schools and planned process to ensure timely communication.
- Proposed revisions to QAPP that outline specific steps that will be taken to ensure compliance with 3Ts guidance, if applicable.
- Proposed revisions to grant workplan, if applicable (e.g. remediation costs, contractual costs, etc.).
- Any additional documentation regarding compliance with grant terms and conditions.
- Information about WIIN 2107 samples collected to date, including:
- November 10-15: DOE asked school contacts for confirmation via email that all fixtures with results above 7.5 ug/L are not used for consumption.
- November 14: DHSS and DOE participate in town hall meeting with members of the General Assembly to explain school lead water testing program to date, discuss needed improvements, and answer questions. Link to Virtual Forum
- November 22-23: DPH/DHSS staff visit schools for inspections to visually confirm fixture shut offs.