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Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water

On July 13, 2016, the State Board of Education adopted regulations regarding testing for lead in drinking water in public schools throughout New Jersey. The regulations have been filed with the Office of Administrative Law and are effective immediately.

Overview of Regulations:

The regulations require testing for lead in all drinking water outlets within 365 days of the effective date of the regulations, which was July 13, 2016. All districts are directed to develop a lead sampling plan that will govern the collection and analysis of drinking water samples. Samples must then be sent to a certified testing laboratory for analysis. A complete list of certified testing laboratories is available on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's website.

Notification

Every district must make all test results available at the school facility and on the district's website. The regulations also require notification to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), as well as to parents, in any instances where positive results over the established level are reported. The notification should describe the steps taken to immediately end the use of each drinking water outlet where water quality exceeds the permissible lead level, as well as the measures taken to ensure that alternate drinking water has been made available to all students and staff.

Reimbursement Request Process for Public School Districts, Charter Schools and Renaissance School Projects:

While eligibility for cost reimbursement within this lead testing program includes Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (APSSDs) and state-funded early childcare facilities (ECF), this specific process is for school districts, renaissance school projects and charter schools (Districts). NOTE: The reimbursement process for nonpublic schools is still being developed.

Districts are able to seek reimbursement for the costs of collecting water samples and the testing completed by their NJ-certified laboratory. To obtain reimbursement, a district must submit a Reimbursement Request Form. Included in this form is a checklist of steps each school is required to complete to be eligible for reimbursement. This form must be signed by either the district’s chief school administrator or the business administrator. In addition to this form, each district must submit a copy/ copies of the invoice(s) from its NJ-certified laboratory clearly displaying the eligible reimbursable costs.

Reimbursement Request Process for Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (APSSDs) and Early Child Care facilities (ECCF):

The reimbursement process for APSSDs and Early Child Care Facilities will require that all such schools obtain a vendor identification number from the New Jersey Department of Treasury. If your school does not already have such an ID number, you can obtain one by submitting a W-9 form to the Department of Treasury.

Once you have received your vendor ID, you will be able to submit the attached APSSD and ECCF Reimbursement Request form. Included in this form is a checklist of steps each school is required to complete to be eligible for reimbursement. This form must be signed by either the school's chief school administrator or the business administrator. In addition to this form, each school must submit a copy/copies of the invoice(s) from its NJ-certified laboratory clearly displaying the eligible reimbursable costs.

Reimbursement Request Process for Nonpublic Schools

At the current time, there is no legal requirement for nonpublic schools to complete testing of their drinking and food preparation water. The July 13 regulation does contain a provision permitting non-public schools, should they choose to test their water, to request reimbursement for the costs of collecting water samples and the testing completed by their NJ-certified laboratory. These reimbursement requests will only be honored if there is funding available after all districts required by the regulations to complete testing have received reimbursement for their testing costs.

At the current time, the NJDOE is still finalizing the processes to manage both the water testing and the delivery of reimbursement funds.

For All Districts/Schools

For all schools using in-house personnel to collect the water samples that request reimbursement for that specific cost, the Internal Labor Calculation form must also be submitted. Any reimbursement request submitted without invoices or, if applicable, without the Internal Labor Calculation form will be returned to the district or school.

Reimbursement requests should be submitted to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) at the following e-mail address: Leadtesting@doe.state.nj.us. The subject line must read as follows: Lead Testing Reimbursement

While the NJDOE will not begin processing reimbursements until March 2017 at the earliest, the Department asks that you submit your request as soon as all water testing has been completed in your district. The NJDOE will only process one reimbursement request per district.  Therefore, do not submit your request until ALL testing has been completed, including flush sample testing for outlets where the initial sample test exceeded the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

No reimbursement requests from nonpublic schools will be processed until all reimbursements for districts required by the July 13, 2016 regulations to complete testing have been processed and the determination has been made that there are funds remaining.

Requests for Waiver or Exemption from Lead Testing Requirement

The regulations in N.J.A.C. 6A:26-12.4 (h) and (i) allow a school district to apply for one of two types of exemptions from the testing requirement.  Testing requirements are set forth in 12.4 (d):

  1. "A district board of education may apply to the Department for an exemption from the initial testing if the district board of education can demonstrate that it complied with or exceeded the testing requirements set forth in (d) above, including any required public notifications, within five years prior to the effective date of the regulation."

  2. "District boards of education may request an exemption from the testing requirements set forth in (d) above if they can demonstrate that they do not use any drinking water outlets for consumption or food preparation in any of their facilities. District boards of education seeking an exemption pursuant to this provision shall submit an application to the Department documenting that no drinking water outlets are used in their facilities and the provisions for an alternative source of drinking water.

Districts are able to request a Waiver by submitting a Waiver Request Form. The request form includes a Statement of Assurance confirming the district completed its prior testing in accordance with the requirements set forth in these regulations. The form also includes a checklist showing each of the steps required to be completed. All steps on the checklist must have been completed for the waiver to be approved. Additionally, the district must provide to the Department information regarding the testing activities conducted, including the lead sampling plan and an analysis of the samples taken.

Districts are also able to request an Exemption by submitting a Letter of Application to the Department in which the district states it does not use water outlets for drinking or food preparation. The application will take the form of a letter from the district, submitted on the district's letterhead with text similar to the sample Letter of Application and signed by the district's chief school administrator or business administrator.

Waiver or exemption requests must be submitted to the Department by Friday, April 28, 2017. Requests are to be submitted to the leadtesting@doe.state.nj.us e-mail address.

Guidance and Resources:

To assist districts through the process, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in consultation with the NJDOE, has developed guidance documents, including templates of lead testing plans, notification letters, and FAQ sheets. These documents are available on NJDEP's website.

Training Resources:

The NJDOE is partnering with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to develop a set of web-based resources to assist in completing the steps required for a successful lead testing program. The resources will include videos discussing the collection of information about a school's drinking water system and the completion of required documents, including the plumbing profile, the site floor plan, the water outlet inventory, the sampling sequence and the filter inventory. These videos are being edited by the NJDEP and the state Office of Information Technology (OIT) and should be available on this website by the middle of December 2016.

Purchasing Testing Services:

The Morris County Educational Services Commission, the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey and the Camden County Educational Services Commission have completed their bid processes and have cooperative purchasing programs available. Additional educational services commissions are developing cooperative purchasing programs for lead testing, and the NJDOE will make their contact information available when they have established cooperative pricing programs.