The drive this summer to test lead levels at child-care centers and daycares across Vermont has resulted in testing at facilities across Lamoille and Washington counties and in the Northeast Kingdom.
As in the statewide trend, some of those daycares and centers have been flagged with faucets or fountains showing lead levels at or higher than the state-standard of 4 parts per billion.
But, in most of those cases there’s an easy fix to the problem.
For most child-care facilities, the fix simply requires “going to the hardware store and replacing a faucet,” explained Ben Montross, the compliance and support services section chief with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Drinking Water & Groundwater Protection Division.
Three local childcare centers, AppleTree Learning Centers and the Mountain Village School in Stowe, along with the Morristown After School Program, and a handful of smaller in-home daycares had at least one water source that showed lead levels of 4 ppb or more. Two of those larger centers, AppleTree and Mountain Village School, and all the local in-home daycares reported that they had replaced problem fixtures soon after the test results revealed the issue.
Remediation can be a bit tougher at larger schools, but in either example the first step is to make sure no one drinks from or uses water from particular fountain or faucet to cook with until its fixed, Montross said. Lead levels in a water source typically build up when water sits in a faucet or fountain, especially older ones, for long periods of time as the water interacts with the metals in the fixture.
Results that show higher levels of lead during the initial test, but lower levels after the faucet has been flushed tend to point toward that type of issue, Montross said.
So, “just a simple plumbing swap,” is usually all that’s needed to bring lead levels back down under the 4 ppb level, he added. “If there is elevated lead, it’s most likely coming from the fixtures. If you have older fixtures, you can have a higher lead count.”
He stressed that lead rarely comes from any public water supply or well, it’s almost always from a particular problem faucet or foundation. Once that problem fixture is replaced the standard practice is to wait a few weeks before retesting.
“If those results come back with a concentration of less than 4 ppb, they’re allowed to then put that fixture back into service,” Montross said.
He expects the Vermont Department of Health to soon finalize its schedule for picking up tests from schools across the state. Most daycares and child care centers mailed in samples, but schools will have so many fountains, faucets and other sources to test that curriers will be picking up samples beginning some time in late September, he said.
Any homeowners who are worried about lead levels in their private water supply or who have older fixtures can request sample jars from the Department of Health.
“Sample it first,” he said. “If it comes back high, work on replacing your faucets.”
Information about testing your private water supply can be found at healthvermont.gov.
Local results: Duxbury
• Learning Ladder Children’s Center; samples taken on July 18 from the kitchen sink, with less than 1 ppb found on first draw and less than 1 ppb found on the flush draw.
• Jennifer Bombard’s daycare; samples taken on July 2 from the kitchen sink, with less than 1 ppb found for both draws.
Local results: Waterbury Center
• Kelley Jo Hackett’s daycare; samples taken on July 17 from the basement and kitchen sinks. Less than 1 ppb was found in the first draw from each sink, and less than 1 ppb on each flush draw.