Water Testing - Letter to Families
This message was sent on July 31 by email and text message to parents and staff members. It also included details on the status of the recipient’s particular school — informing them whether their school had been a) tested and found to have no issues, b) tested and issues were found that are being addressed, or c) would be tested in the future.
Dear Hillsborough County Public Schools families and staff,
In recent months, there have been a number of news stories throughout the country about high levels of lead in school drinking water. We wanted to let you know about proactive efforts in our district to ensure the water our students and staff drink is safe for consumption.
Since last year, we have tested the water at 1,781 individual faucets, drinking fountains, and fixtures where water is likely to be used for drinking or cooking in 53 schools and district sites. We will continue testing the drinking water sources in our schools for lead until we have checked all 270 facilities in our district.
We have hundreds of dedicated employees who work hard to maintain our schools, but our average campus age is 50 years old, and older pipes and fixtures do have a higher likelihood of adding lead to water.
Federal guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency recommend we take action to fix an issue when lead is measured at 20 parts per billion or higher. One part per billion is equivalent to a single drop of water in a swimming pool. Our district is using a stricter standard of 15 parts per billion. Any fixture found to have lead levels of 15 parts per billion or higher is immediately taken out of operation and is not used again until the problem is fixed.
Of the 1,781 samples taken so far, 26 have returned with levels higher than our guidelines. Our protocol is to immediately shut down the affected faucet, correct the issue, and then retest the water to ensure the levels are in compliance before putting the faucet back into service. Options to correct an issue include replacing the fixture, adding water filters, or other plumbing projects. Alternative sources of water may be supplied to schools if needed.
Each school may have dozens of faucets that require testing, and results take time to come back from the testing lab. We are posting the results of the schools and sites tested so far and will add future results as we receive them on our district website at sdhc.k12.fl.us/watertesting. If a school has a fixture that tests over the 15 parts per billion level, we will notify parents and staff by email and text message.
Please know that when we find any issue, we are committed to addressing it and fixing the problem. This testing is not required by any law; it is an additional step we are taking to improve safety for our students and staff, and we hope other school districts in Florida will join us in this effort. We will continue testing until we have results for all our schools.
Deputy Superintendent for Operations