Lead in Schools

The Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) is planning to launch the Lead Sampling Program to help public schools investigate sources of lead within their plumbing systems. This program will be offered during the spring of 2022 and is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency's WIIN Act 2107 grant.

Why should we be concerned about lead?

Our bodies can absorb lead in our bones, blood and tissues where it can be stored as a source of long-term exposure. We either breathe lead in as we inhale or swallow it in the water and food we ingest. Children have a soft "blood-brain barrier" which means exposure to lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, or result in learning, hearing and speech problems. Lead can also travel through the placental barrier in pregnant women, which presents significant dangers to growing infants. Adults with lead poisoning may experience high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory, and other symptoms. Water is just one pathway for lead exposure. Other sources include paint, soil, dust and some consumer products. .

How does lead enter drinking water in schools?

Lead typically enters drinking water through premise plumbing materials (inside a facility) or via a service line (a pipe that delivers water from the street water main to a facility). This soft metal was not likely a popular service line choice for large buildings. More common sources of lead within facilities will likely be fixtures (faucets, water coolers, etc.), copper lines with lead solder, and a variety of in-line leaded brass components such as shut-off valves. Many facilities across the nation purchased these leaded materials unknowingly over the last 100 years. Unfortunately, sources of lead likely exist within new and old buildings alike as the "lead-free" standard for plumbing materials allowed up to 8% lead until 2014. Water chemistry can make lead in premise plumbing systems more or less likely to leach into water. Sampling drinking water is the best way to identify lead risk in the plumbing system.

Who is eligible for the program?

Public K-12 schools are eligible to participate in this program. We will prioritize elementary schools and districts serving a high percentage of disadvantaged students because lead poses the highest amount of risk to young children and testing can be costly. Click here to see a list of eligible schools that meet this criteria.

What does the program include?

The program provides all the materials and support needed to conduct baseline sampling of the entire plumbing system.

Each participating school will receive:

  1. Software access to design sample plans, collect samples, track remediation and communicate results
  2. Training on sample planning and collection
  3. Sample bottles and lab analysis
  4. Communication templates
  5. Technical support if remediation is needed
  6. Email/phone support for all questions related to software use, sampling and remediation

What are my school district's responsibilities?

School project managers must attend or view short online trainings, create sample plans, collect samples and share results with the public. Each school will have access to resources and staff to assist them through the process.

To participate in the program please take our enrollment survey. Contact Erin Fagnan at (605)-394-6780 with any questions.

For more information on EPA's WIIN Grant:

EPA's WIIN Grant Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program

South Dakota DENR Contact Information:

For additional questions or information, please contact Erin Fagnan, Drinking Water Program at 605-394-6780