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Some schools miss the deadline for taking lead water samples, even though it is required by state law

Seventy schools in Utah have not yet taken lead samples from their drinking water, despite a state law passed in 2022 that requires all schools to do so by December 31, 2023.

According to the Utah Division of Drinking Water, 6% of schools are currently out of compliance. This law applies to all public and private schools.

Here is a list of schools that have not yet tested for lead:

“It never occurred to me that there was a problem with the water,” said JoAnne Brown, a teacher and parent of a recent college graduate.

Brown relied on the water, both at the school where she teaches and at the school her son attended.

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“I think it’s one of the most important things that people should be doing in the background,” she said.

The sampling began as a voluntary program until 2022 legislation mandated testing by the end of 2023.

“Lead is a toxic metal for consumption, even at lower levels,” said Dylan Martinez, Lead and Copper Rule Manager at the Utah Division of Drinking Water.

The state is working with schools to conduct random testing through the Lead Free Learning Program.

Martinez said some schools have high lead levels, requiring immediate pipe replacement or other interventions to ensure water safety.

“We have a flushing program to ensure that the water does not come into contact with the pipes for an extended period of time, causing a major problem,” Martinez said.

89% of schools have completed the sample and a further 4% are in the process of completing this. The state only requires one-time sampling and funding is still available to meet this requirement.

Attempts to reach several noncompliant schools for comment on their sample status were unsuccessful.

Rowland Hall was the only school to respond with the following statement:

My understanding is that the deadline you reference only applied to schools that chose to use the State Fund for water testing. Schools also had the option to opt out of the state fund and hire an independent contractor to conduct the testing (no deadline was set by the state for this). By the way, our water test for lead is already scheduled for next week. We have tested our water for lead and other metals in the past, and those reports have shown that our water is free of metals. However, as I said, we are about to test again next week.

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