|All Nebraska schools and child care facilities eligible for free lead testing of their drinking water
LINCOLN — Nebraska schools and childcare facilities may sample for lead in their drinking water through an expanded effort from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE). Qualifying facilities include public, parochial, and private schools from pre-K through high school, as well as public and in-home child cares.
These funds come from Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act grants. Sample kits are mailed to facilities and prepaid postage allows for the kits to be returned to the laboratory for free lead testing.
While all schools and childcare facilities are eligible to apply, the program focuses on populations that are most at-risk for lead exposure and prioritizes facilities that:
- serve children ages 6 and younger;
- are public preschools, elementary schools and childcare facilities in underserved and low-income communities; and
- those that were built before 1988.
Children ages 6 and younger are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure, said Sue Dempsey, Drinking Water and Groundwater Division Administrator.
“We are fortunate to have this opportunity for schools and childcares to help minimize lead exposure,” she said. “Let’s work together to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Childhood exposure to lead may be associated with hearing and speech impairments, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, slowed growth and development, and adverse impacts to the developing nervous system.
Identifying sources of exposure is crucial since childhood lead poisoning is preventable. Not only is lead sampling free through this NDEE program, it is also easy to participate. It only takes about 15 minutes and anyone can collect a sample — including a parent, a high school student or school nurse. NDEE created a how-to video on taking a lead sample that can be accessed at https://youtu.be/f7x6UGc0q5Y.
The testing is to identify lead that may be present in faucets, not lead in water service lines. NDEE will not require facilities to update their lead service lines. Facilities that find high levels of lead can prevent exposure by removing or replacing the faucet, or by placing a “do not use” sign over the sink or fountain. The goal of the program is to prevent the use of faucets with high lead levels for drinking water or cooking.
Participating local health departments are working with NDEE to oversee and coordinate the program in their areas. Any questions may be directed to these departments. They have educational material that facilities with elevated levels of lead can provide to parents, and they can work together with schools and childcare facilities to develop solutions.
Health departments that are currently participating are:
- Central District Health Department
- Douglas County Health Department
- East Central District Health Department
- Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department
- Four Corners Health Department
- Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
- North Central District Health Department
- Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department
- Panhandle Public Health District
- Public Health Solutions
- Sarpy/Cass Health Department
- South Heartland District Health Department
- Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department
- Three Rivers Public Health Department
- Two Rivers Public Health Department
- West Central District Health Department
Schools and facilities that wish to sample their drinking water should contact their health departments to request test kits. Even if a local health department is not listed above, it may opt in anytime.