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Water Quality

Ensuring the well-being of students and staff members means providing safe, clean water. Maryland law requires that all public and non-public schools with students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, receive drinking water from a public utility to sample for the presence of lead. 

City Schools regularly samples and monitors water quality at its schools and offices and complies with state safety laws in this area to ensure safe-to-drink water for students and staff. This page contains a FAQ, updates about our safe water efforts, and what you can expect.

To learn more about the condition of our facilities, visit our Building Conditions webpage

Lead testing

Maryland law requires that all public and non-public schools with students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, receive drinking water from a public utility to sample for the presence of lead. City Schools regularly samples and monitors water quality at its schools and offices and complies with local, state, and federal safety laws in this area to ensure safe-to-drink water for students and staff. 
 
In June 2021, a new Maryland law lowered the acceptable presence of lead in drinking and cooking water in schools to 5 parts per billion, down from 20 parts per billion previously. As a result, schools with acceptable levels before June 2021 may no longer meet the standard according to the new law. 
 
As a precaution, City Schools will be sampling all schools that have filtered drinking outlets annually. When we find elevated lead levels in a sink or water fountain, we temporarily shut it off as a precaution and post “DO NOT USE and DO NOT DRINK” signage. City Schools also provides students and staff with bottled water during that period. Please note: All water is still safe to use for handwashing, bathing for student-athletes, and other non-consumable uses. 
 
More information can be found in the FAQ below. 

FAQ

Why is City Schools sampling for lead in our schools drinking water?

Maryland House Bill 270 requires that all public and non-public schools with students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and are receiving drinking water from a public utility to test for the presence of lead. 

Is the drinking and cooking water at City Schools buildings safe?

Yes. Baltimore City Public Schools regularly tests and monitors water quality at its schools and offices as required by the State of Maryland.

How frequently does City Schools sample water used for drinking and cooking?

Beginning in 2018 the Maryland Department of the Environment mandated testing lead in drinking water in public and non-public schools on a three-year cycle. Maryland’s regulations require this testing to be conducted when schools are in regular session; however, closures and capacity reductions resulting from the on-going COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted such testing, which had been planned for school year 2020-2021.  In response, Baltimore City Public Schools Operations Inspections & Environmental Compliance began testing in June 2021, drinking water outlets in schools, which either have a Point of Entry (POE) or Point of Use (POU) filtration system. As a precaution, starting this school year, City Schools will be testing all schools that have filtered drinking outlets annually.  For more information click here.

Is City Schools required to share the lead water sample results with school communities?

If an analysis of a water sample indicates an elevated level of lead in a drinking water outlet, the results of the analysis are reported to the State Department of Education, the Maryland Department of Health, and the appropriate local health department. Notice of the elevated level of lead must be provided to the parent or legal guardian of each student attending the school and posted on the website.

What should I know about lead in Drinking Water?

The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. Lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and buildings built before 1986. You can’t smell or taste lead in drinking water. To find out for certain that lead is in drinking water, the water must be tested. To learn more visit here.

Who does the water sampling and analysis?

City Schools hired three (3) outside Environmental sampling contractors to collect all lead in drinking water samples. The sample analysis must be performed by a Maryland certified laboratory. City Schools contracts two (2) certified vendors to analyze the drinking water.

What is the allowable concentration of lead in water in school buildings?

Prior to June 1, 2021, the acceptable lead level was 20 parts per billion. With the new State requirement, House Bill 636, lead concentrations must not exceed 5 parts per billion.

What does parts per billion (ppb) mean?**

One ppb is one part of lead within one billion parts of water. Here’s an analogy: One drop of ink in one of the largest tanker trucks used to haul gasoline would be an ink concentration of 1 ppb. Other analogies would be:

  • one silver dollar in roll stretching from Detroit to Salt Lake City,
  • one sheet in a roll of toilet paper stretching from New York to London,
  • one second in nearly 32 years, or
  • one pinch of salt in 10 tons of potato chips.

**Source: Bay Shore Former MGP Site – link here.

What steps has City Schools taken to minimize lead in schools and childcare drinking water when lead concentrations in drinking water outlets exceed the legal limit of 5 ppb

City Schools have installed water filtering systems in all 21 Century School building and Capitol Improvement Schools to reduce lead in the drinking water. City Schools also sample water from fountains, faucets, and other outlets on a three-year cycle per Maryland requirement. When lead concentration in drinking water exceeds the allowed lead concentration, we take steps to ensure our levels are below the requirement.

Why are there elevated lead levels in water sources in new buildings?

It is not unusual to find minor issues in buildings that are new or have been reopened after limited use. Water quality can also be impacted by how it is received from the water provider or temporary malfunctions in new piping or components. Water testing helps identify those issues so we get the drinking source back working.

How frequently does City Schools change the filters in the drinking outlets?

In most buildings waters filters are changed at the point at which water enters the building every four (4) months. However, come it some areas of the district water is also filtered at the drinking fountain or other source.

What happens if there are elevated lead levels in the drinking water in my school?

  • We close off access to the outlet and we post “DO NOT USE and DO NOT DRINK” signage
  • Collect follow-up samples from all outlets with elevated lead readings.
  • City schools will continue to provide safe drinking water to students and staff with bottled water.
     

What actions may be taken if elevated levels of lead are found in any drinking water outlet?

Each school found to have elevated levels of lead will include one or more of the following actions in its management plan.

  • Repair, reconfigure, or replace the outlet, plumbing or service line contributing to the elevated level of lead
  • Permanently close access to the outlet or remove the outlet; or
  • The affected outlets are resampled and managed until lead concentration does not exceed 5 parts per billion.
     

Can drinking water with elevated lead concentrations be used for washing pot and pans and kitchen utensils?

Yes. All water outlets can continue to be used for non-consumable uses.

Can drinking water with Elevated Lead Concentrations be used for handwashing and bathing?

Yes. Staff and students can use the water outlets for handwashing, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level.  Human skin does not absorb lead in water. For more information click here.