When deciding which long-term mitigation strategies to implement at problematic fixtures, remember to consider how lead gets into drinking water. This includes investigating whether your facility is connected to a lead service line and reviewing your lead in water test results.
Don’t forget to list your planned long-term mitigation strategies on your mitigation plan and to retest your water after implementing these actions. For additional guidance on mitigation strategies, explore the USEPA’s 3T’s guidance for child care facilities.
Remember these tips as you select long-term mitigation strategies for your facility:
- If only your first draw sample tests positive for lead, there is probably lead in the fixture like a sink faucet or a drinking fountain. Focus on mitigation strategies that address the fixture.
- If only your 30-second flush sample tests positive for lead, then the situation is more complicated, as the lead is likely coming from a source further upstream in the internal plumbing system. Focus on mitigation strategies that address plumbing.
- If both your first draw and 30-second flush samples test positive for lead, you will need to consider strategies that address both your fixture and plumbing.
Long-Term Mitigation Strategies
Replacing faucets and fountains may be a good option if you have high lead levels in your first draw sample. To replace your faucet or fountain, you will want to contact a licensed Illinois plumber. Be sure to ask your plumber to use lead free plumbing materials. To learn more about markings that indicate plumbing materials meet lead free requirements, visit this US EPA resource. This certification means the faucet adheres to strict lead-free standards. After your faucet has been replaced by a plumber, we encourage you to flush your new faucet for several weeks – or to use an NSF 53 certified filter for a few weeks – since lead levels can temporarily increase post replacement.
In some situations, faucet replacement may not result in a reduction in lead levels. This could happen if an upstream fitting or valve is the source of lead. The US EPA recommends that if you are considering having multiple faucets replaced, try one faucet replacement first and see what the follow up tests reveal before moving forward with the other replacements.
If you decide to permanently remove a fixture from service that you use regularly, you could install a new drinking water fixture – such as a water bottle filling station with an NSF 53 and 42 filter, in a central location at your facility. You would need to use a licensed plumber to remove the problem fixture and install a new fixture.
Automatic/mechanical flushing devices can be installed at the end of pipes or inside water fountains to automatically flush water at predetermined times to reduce lead levels. Speak with a professional with experience installing these devices for more details on the feasibility of this mitigation strategy for your facility.
Installing NSF 53 and 42 certified point-of-use filters at problem fixture/s can be a long-term strategy if you designate a staff person to regularly replace filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions and maintain a replacement log.
When present, a lead service line can be the largest contributor of lead in drinking water. Service lines deliver water to your home/facility from the water main in the street or source of water. These lines are more likely to be made of lead if your home or building was constructed before 1987; this is because the Safe Drinking Water Act banned the use of lead service lines in 1986. It is also important to remove and replace service lines made of galvanized steel since they can contain lead particles. To find out if a lead or galvanized service line exists at your child care facility, contact your facility’s water supplier or a licensed plumber. You can also investigate the material of your facility’s service line by using a visual inspection guide like the one developed by National Public Radio at npr.org/pipes.
If your facility is connected to a lead service line, work with an Illinois licensed plumber and your local water utility to replace your entire lead pipe (from the building to the water main). While lead service line replacement can be expensive, you can contact your local water utility to see if any resources exist to assist with the cost of full lead service line replacement. If you are unable to replace your lead service line, install filters at drinking water faucets or use water pitchers with filters that are NSF 53 and 42 certified.
A licensed plumber can help you determine if your internal plumbing contains lead and the cost of bypassing or replacing the leaded plumbing. Older plumbing is more likely to contain lead. If you decide internal plumbing replacement is feasible, ensure your licensed plumber uses lead-free plumbing materials.