General Information


    Safe and healthy school environments can foster healthy and successful children. To protect public health, the Public Health Law and New York State Health Department (NYSDOH) regulations require that all public schools and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES) test lead levels in water from every outlet that is used, or could potentially be used, for drinking or cooking.  Revisions effective March 22, 2022, reduce the lead action level in drinking water from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 5 ppb.  If lead is found at any water outlet at levels above 5 parts per billion (ppb)[1], which is equal to 5 micrograms per liter (µg/L), the NYSDOH requires that the school take action to reduce the exposure to lead.


    Rule of Thumb[2]

    • Any outlet in a room or office within a school not used by students (pre-kindergarten through grade 12), for drinking or cooking, does not require sampling.  An example is custodial storage closest dispensing cleaning chemicals
    • Lavatory Sinks: Toilet rooms and bathrooms are building environments that can present unique challenges to water portability. These challenges are reflect in various code provisions that prohibit the installation of drinking facilities, drinking fountains, water coolers, and water dispensers within toilet rooms and bathrooms. NYS DOH would not object to designating these outlets no applicable where controls (e.g., education and signage) exist to prevent the consumption of water. ``Handwashing Only, Not for Drinking" signs have been posted
    • Dish washing outlets: If an outlet is designate for dish washing only and involves no opportunity for drinking or cooking including food preparation, the outlet does not require sampling.
    • Science/Art sinks: Classrooms in these settings prohibit eating and/or drinking.  The sinks within these rooms are not for drinking or cooking.  ``Handwashing Only, Not for Drinking" signs have been posted.
    • Classroom sinks: If the outlet is used for drinking and/or cooking, it must be sampled. However, if the school has controls in place to prevent the consumption of water, Superintendents or their designees have the discretion to exclude these outlets from sampling and include them in the Remedial Action Plan.


    What is first draw testing of school drinking water for lead?

    The “on-again, off-again” nature of water use at most schools can raise lead levels in school drinking water. Water that remains in pipes overnight, over a weekend, or over vacation periods stays in contact with lead pipes or lead solder and, as a result, could contain higher levels of lead. This is why schools are required to collect a sample after the water has been sitting in the plumbing system for a certain period of time. This “first draw” sample is likely to show higher levels of lead for that outlet than what you would see if you sampled after using the water continuously. However, even if the first draw sample does not reflect what you would see with continuous usage, it is still important because it can identify outlets that have elevated lead levels.

    [1] Action Level lowered from 15 ppb to 5 ppb. Revisions to the Public Health Law (PHL) Section 1110 went into effect on December 22, 2022

    [2] New York State Department of Health Lead Testing in School Drinking Water Program Guidance Manual; November 6, 2023