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U.S. EPA TELLS SCHOOLS TO TEST FOR LEAD, COPPER IN DRINKING WATER

Release Date: 3/13/1995
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1578

   (San Francisco) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(U.S. EPA) today ordered seven California schools that operate
their own drinking water systems to monitor their tap water for
lead and copper. The schools are in Burlingame, Lancaster, Los
Gatos, Morgan Hill, and Salinas.


     "We don't know if these school water systems have high
levels of lead and copper or not, so it is extremely important
that they begin monitoring their water," said Alexis Strauss,
U.S. EPA's regional Water Management Division director. "Young
children suffer much more from the effects of lead than adults."


     Reducing children's exposure to lead is one of U.S. EPA's
top priorities.  U.S. EPA offers technical assistance to schools
that must test their water.


      The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires small water
supply systems serving 3,300 people or fewer to collect samples
and report the results to U.S. EPA.  Only these seven schools
failed to do so, out of 443 that received notifications last
August informing them of the requirements.   Only schools that
operate their own water systems by drawing water from wells or
other sources are required to perform special monitoring.


     U.S. EPA's order to the seven schools is a first step toward
ensuring that all of the approximately 5,000 small water supply
systems in California, Nevada, and Arizona conduct the required
testing for lead and copper.  Under the SDWA, all these systems
should have already completed their first round of monitoring.  


     Small water systems at high risk for lead contamination are
those with new lead solder applied since 1982 and those with lead
service lines.  If a system exceeds the U.S. EPA's "action level"
of 15 parts per billion in 10 percent of the samples taken, then
it must take steps to reduce lead levels, perform additional
monitoring, and, in the case of schools, inform parents and
students of the lead levels.


     The main cause of lead in drinking water is the corrosion of
lead from pipes, solder and fixtures.  The more corrosive the
water leaving a treatment plant, the greater the chance that this
water will leach lead from plumbing, carrying it to the consumer.
Water suppliers can greatly reduce the amount of lead at the tap
by minimizing the corrosivity of the water.


     Lead levels in drinking water are generally low in
California. Most childhood exposure to lead comes from old paint,
soil and dust. Lead can interfere with the formation of red blood
cells, reduce birth weight, cause premature birth, delay physical
and mental development in babies and young children, and impair
mental abilities of children in general. In adults, lead can
increase blood pressure and interfere with hearing. At high
levels of exposure, lead can cause anemia, kidney damage, and
mental retardation. Health effects from lead generally result
from combined exposure from all lead sources.


     Copper, like lead, occurs in drinking water primarily as a
corrosion by-product. Copper is a nutritionally essential
element, but at high doses it causes gastric distress.
   
    The schools that have been ordered to monitor their drinking
water for lead and copper are:


Burlingame:    Burlingame High School (San Mateo Union High
                   School District)
Lancaster:     Wilsona Elementary School (Wilsona School
                   District)
Los Gatos:     Lakeside Elementary School (Lakeside Joint School
                   District)
Morgan Hill:   Burnett Elementary School, Encinal Elementary
                   School (Morgan Hill Unified School District)
Salinas:       San Benancio Middle School, Washington Elementary
                   School (Washington Union Elementary School
                   District)


                   
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