Lead Testing in Drinking Water - What Schools Need to Do

girls on track drinking water from bottle

Many Vermont schools are in older buildings, which means they are more likely to have lead in the plumbing. While a major source of lead poisoning in Vermont children is paint, lead in older plumbing and fixtures can add to a child’s overall lead exposure. Lead exposure poses a special risk to children because they absorb lead into their systems more easily than adults do. Lead can slow down growth, impair development and learning, and can cause behavior problems.

To address these risks, the General Assembly recently passed legislation that requires all schools and licensed or registered child care facilities to test their drinking water for lead, and to remediate when results are found to be at or above the action level of 4 parts per billion (ppb). This law builds on the 2017 water testing pilot project in which several Supervisory Unions and Districts participated.

The State of Vermont will cover all testing costs. The State will also reimburse for the actual costs to replace fixtures up to a certain amount.

Below you will find step-by-step instructions, instructional videos, and all the materials you will need to help you through this process. Questions? Call 2-1-1

1. Choose a designated person(s).

There needs to be one or two designated people who will:

  • Complete the tap inventory.
  • Fill out the Water Sample Collection Information Form for each sample.
  • Collect water samples.
  • Prepare the samples for courier pickup.
2. Prepare your tap inventory.

You’ll need to do a tap inventory to order lead in drinking water test kits. Complete only one tap inventory per school. Fill in the blue section titled "Tap Inventory for Schools and Child Care Providers Testing for Lead in Drinking Water." Make sure you save the tap inventory for later. It will help you fill out the Water Sample Collection Information Form that goes with each sample. You’ll also want to have this with you when you’re collecting water samples.

We created a video with step-by-step instructions and tips to help you fill out the tap inventory. Watch Video 1 - How to Complete Your Tap Inventory

Schools will need to collect drinking water samples from all taps that are currently or reasonably expected to be used for drinking or cooking in the buildings they own, control and operate. This includes taps in rooms that are used by all licensed child care providers, which includes preschool or after school programs.

You'll be collecting two samples at each tap—a “first draw” and a “flush.” The first draw sample collects the first water that comes out of the tap after a period of inactivity (between 8 and 18 hours). The flush sample collects water after the tap has been running for 30 seconds.

Fixtures that have multiple taps (such as a sink with a faucet and a drinking fountain, or bottle fill station and drinking fountain) are called “combo fixtures.” You'll need to do two first draw samples, but only one flush sample. The flush sample should be from the tap that is easiest to flush consistently for 30 seconds.

Download the tap inventory
See photo examples of fixture types
Watch Video 1 - How to Complete Your Tap Inventory

3. Complete the Lead in School Drinking Water: Kit Ordering and Registration Survey.

Be sure to have the blue section of your tap inventory completed and with you when you fill out the survey.

Go to the Lead in School Drinking Water: Kit Ordering and Registration Survey

4. Send a letter and informational sheet to parents, guardians and school staff at least 5 days before you begin collecting samples.

You’ll need to send a letter and an informational sheet to parents, guardians and school staff at least 5 days before you begin collecting samples. For licensed child care programs (preschool or afterschool) that operate in your school, you are responsible for providing the letter and informational sheet to the child care program so they can send them out to parents, guardians and staff at least 5 days before you begin collecting samples. The beginning of Video 2 - How to Collect Water Samples talks about how to notify your community.

The letter should include:

  • Your scheduled sample collection week.
  • Why you’re being asked to test.
  • The requirements for testing.
  • The health effects of lead and other sources of lead (included on the informational sheet).
  • How you will notify parents, guardians and staff about the results.
  • How you will respond to results that are at or above the action level.

We created a letter template and informational sheet with all of the elements listed above for you to use. They are translated into nine languages and posted below.

The yellow highlighted sections of the letter template (e.g. DATE, SCHOOL NAME, etc.) will need to be edited by you before sending out the letters.

Download the letter template
Download the informational sheet
Download translated versions of the letter template and informational sheet

5. Prepare to collect the water samples.

You'll be collecting two samples at each tap identified on the tap inventory—a first draw and a flush. A Water Sample Collection Information Form needs to be filled out for each sample. It is important to fill out every field on the form. Download instructions on how to fill out the Form

For combo fixtures (e.g. a sink with a faucet and a drinking fountain or bottle fill station and drinking fountain), you'll need to do two first draw samples, but only one flush sample. The flush sample should be from the tap that is easiest to flush consistently for 30 seconds. The second section of Video 2 - How to Collect Water Samples has tips about how to prepare to collect samples and fill out the Forms.

  • You can fill out everything on the Form (except for the date, time and sampler’s comments) before you collect samples.
  • Use the blue section of your completed tap inventory to help you fill out the Forms.
  • Write the “Lab ID #” (found in the top right box on the Form) in the last column of the blue section of the tap inventory that says “Lab ID #.”
  • On the Form for a flush sample, write the first draw sample Lab ID # for the same tap in the box to the right of “Collection Type.” Note: This is a very important step. The first draw and flush samples for the same tap must be linked together. This ensures that the sample results are displayed correctly online and will help you track a result that is at or above 4 ppb.
  • Keep all first draw sample Forms together and all flush sample Forms together.

Download instructions on how to fill out the Water Sample Collection Information Form
Watch Video 2 - How to Collect Water Samples

6. Collect water samples during your scheduled week.

Sample bottles will be mailed to you. In the box of sample bottles, a fluorescent pink notice and instructions on how to collect water samples will be included. The pink notice will tell you when to collect water samples and will list your scheduled pickup day.

We created a video with step-by-step instructions and tips on how to collect water samples. Watch Video 2 - How to Collect Water Samples

Collect samples first thing in the morning after the water has been sitting in the pipes for 8 to 18 hours. Make sure you collect all of the samples before the water starts being used for the day. Don’t sample the first day back after a weekend, holiday or vacation.

Collect all samples from the taps listed on your tap inventory. Starting closest to where the water enters the building, collect all first draw samples first. Then go back and collect all flush samples. For combo fixtures (e.g. a sink with a faucet and a drinking fountain or a bottle fill station and a drinking fountain), you will collect two first draw samples—one from each tap—but only one flush sample. The flush sample should be from the tap that is easiest to flush consistently for 30 seconds.

Follow the instructions that come with the sample bottles and fill out the remaining fields on the Water Sample Collection Information Form (date, time and sampler’s comments).

Be sure to write the Lab ID # (found in the top right box of the Form) on the sample bottle label. Fold and rubber-band the Form around the bottle.

Download instructions on how to fill out the Water Sample Collection Information Form
Download instructions on how to collect water samples
Watch Video 2 - How to Collect Water Samples

7. Return samples to the lab.

A courier will pick up the samples from your school on your scheduled pickup day. A fluorescent pink notice will be included in the box of sample bottles that will list your scheduled pickup day.

We created a video with step-by-step instructions and tips to on return water samples to the lab. Watch Video 3 - Returning Your Water Samples

Be sure to:

  • Screw the caps on tightly and securely wrap the Forms around each bottle.
  • Pack the samples securely in any box(es) using packing materials to make sure they don’t move around.
  • Label the box(es) with your school name.

Materials you will need

Phase of the Process Title Description
Tap Inventory Tap Inventory - Template and Example Use the blue section titled "Tap Inventory for Schools and Child Care Providers Testing for Lead in Drinking Water" to complete your tap inventory. To see an example of a completed tap inventory, click on the tab labeled "Example."
Sample Collection How to Fill out the Water Sample Collection Information Form - Instructions See how to fill out the Water Sample Collection Information Form for each sample.
Notification (before testing) Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff Use this letter template to send to parents, guardians and school staff at least five days before you begin collecting samples.
Notification (before testing) Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children Include this informational sheet with the notification letter sent to parents, guardians and school staff at least five days before you begin collecting samples.
Sample Collection Photos of Fixture Types See images of the different types of fixtures for sample collection.
Sample Collection How to Collect Water Samples - Instructions Follow these instructions to collect first draw and flush water samples. These instructions will be included in the box of sample bottles mailed to you.


Translated Materials

Language Title
Arabic Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Burmese Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
French Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Kirundi Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Nepali Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Somali Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Spanish Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Swahili Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Vietnamese Notification Letter to Parents, Guardians and School Staff
Arabic Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Burmese Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
French Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Kirundi Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Nepali Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Somali Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Spanish Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Swahili Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children
Vietnamese Informational Sheet - Lead Poisoning in Children