Louisville Water's focus on public health extends well beyond producing and delivering a safe, high-quality supply of drinking water. Part of the effort includes working with schools to minimize potential risks with lead.
It's important to understand that lead levels in drinking water is not a public health concern in Louisville. Louisville's drinking water does not contain lead when it leaves the treatment plants. The potential for water to pick up lead particles comes from lead pipes and plumbing. Louisville Water stabilizes the water for corrosion control and is actively working to eliminate the remaining lead service lines.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule is aimed at water utilities. Louisville Water collects samples at customers' taps for analysis of lead and copper and the levels are well below the Action Level set by the EPA.
For school and day cares, the EPA offers guidance under the Lead Contamination Control Act (LCCA). Being a voluntary program, LCCA recommends schools and day cares create their own monitoring programs for lead in drinking water.
Louisville Water recognized the need for monitoring in our community’s schools and began to assist schools implement a plan under the LCCA. In fact, scientists began working with schools in this effort as early as 1988. Louisville Water knew EPA was looking at lead and since health impacts for younger kids were more likely, the company proactively began the effort.
The initial round of monitoring in 1988 was with Jefferson County Public Schools and in 2004 the program was expanded to do annual monitoring for schools in the three counties Louisville Water serves, Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt counties.
In the program, Louisville Water trains the school staff on sampling protocols. School staff collects samples from the drinking water fountains in the school first thing in the morning, before any water is used and then Louisville Water provides free sample analysis. Louisville Water's standard for lead is much stricter for schools than the EPA has listed - we recommend corrective actions for a drinking water fountain where the lead level is above 10 parts per billion, ppb.
Since 2004, scientists have analyzed 1,400 samples and 99% of those fountains met Louisville Water's standards. In fact, most fountains had no detection of lead in the drinking water.
It is rare to come across a sample that requires corrective action but when it happens, Louisville Water immediately alerts the school and in every instance (only 14 since 2004) the school took action to fix the problem, most often removing the fountain.
Louisville Water is proud of its partnership with local schools. The program requires a focus on education and ongoing communication. School staff is equally as concerned with the health of their children as the water utility that provides the water to their facility.
The LCCA also includes guidance on sampling in day care facilities. Louisville Water is developing a pilot program for that effort that will begin later in 2016.