DHEC to provide free testing of lead in drinking water at schools, childcare centers through federal grant

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s top health agency said Thursday it will provide free lead testing in drinking water at schools and childcare centers.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control received $519,000 in grant funding from the federal Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act to help improve drinking water for South Carolina children.

The funding, known as the “Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Grant,” creates a voluntary program for DHEC to work with schools and childcare facilities by sampling their drinking and cooking water for lead.

“Even at very low levels of exposure, children’s health impacts from lead can include lower IQ levels, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, poor classroom performance, and other physical and behavioral effects,” said Jennifer Hughes, Assistant Chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Water. “This WIIN grant opportunity is a free and convenient way for schools and childcare centers to have their water checked so they can help protect the health and wellbeing of the children they care for.”

DHEC regulates South Carolina’s water systems to ensure water quality standards are met. Lead is rarely present in drinking water when it leaves a treatment plant. But it can sometimes seep into drinking water if a school, childcare center, or home has old plumbing with lead-containing pipes or components.

Officials say buildings constructed before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder “because it wasn’t until the federal Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 that lead-containing plumbing began to be restricted,” they said.

DHEC will test the water coming out of a school’s or childcare center’s drinking and cooking water faucets using the grant money.

Samples and lab analyses will be provided at no cost and results will be provided to the facility.

If lead is detected in a facility’s water sample, DHEC will notify the facility and provide information and resources about the short-term and permanent control measures that can be taken to address the problem.

“While the WIIN grant funding can’t be used for remediation, DHEC and its partners stand ready to provide technical assistance to help resolve lead issues quickly,” the agency said.

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