With the official launch last month of a voluntary, statewide program to test the drinking water in any Rhode Island K-12 school, program organizers are encouraging any school that has not yet signed up to take advantage of this no-cost testing opportunity. This effort is a collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and the University of Rhode Island (URI) Cooperative Extension Water Quality Program.
When schools sign up, program staff work with school leadership on the timing of sample collection and on the selection of 10 sample locations through each school. RIDOH and URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality Program will provide sampling materials and arrange sample pickup and testing. All analysis on water samples will be done at RIDOH's State Health Laboratories.
"Lead is a neurotoxin, so it affects how a child's brain develops. Lead exposure can make it difficult for a child to grow, think, and learn," said Interim Director of Health Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH. "Children spend much of their young lives in school. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure schools are healthy environments, so that Rhode Island's kids thrive now and into the future. We encourage all schools to participate and test their drinking water for lead."
Lead is toxic. It is not naturally found in water. Most lead in water comes from metal wearing away in old pipes, lead-based solder, or brass fittings on faucets or water fountains. Lead in drinking water can cause lead exposure and lifelong health problems. The effects are most serious for babies, young children, and people who are pregnant.
The only way to know if there is lead in drinking water is to test for it. All drinking water testing results will be shared with the school and will be available on RIDOH's website. If the water testing shows levels of lead above the Environmental Protection Agency action level, RIDOH and URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality Program will support the schools and provide guidance on how to address the lead and protect children and staff.
RIDOH is pleased to provide this water testing project at no cost to schools with funding from the EPA Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water grant, established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
Interested superintendents should contact Deborah LaMond (Deborah.LaMond@health.ri.gov) RIDOH's Lead and Copper Rule Manager.