The Clean Water for U.S. Kids program is designed to 1) Use a citizen-science based testing strategy to identify lead in drinking and cooking taps at childcare centers and schools, and 2) Provide recommendations and support on how to remove lead found in drinking and cooking water. Our goal is to eliminate childhood exposure to lead in drinking water while in childcare or school.
Initial testing is FREE for states with federal grant funds that partner with RTI International.
This Clean Water for U.S. Kids online portal is designed for easy online participant enrollment, sample test kit creation, test kit tracking, reminder notifications, data view and reporting by county, city, and center in an online mapper, and data archiving for participants and program partners. The system also implements industry-standard cybersecurity protocols to protect study participant privacy and interface directly with laboratory systems, allowing for seamless data import and review.
The system can be used on a smartphone and does not require computer access.
After clicking to enroll, you will be led through a series of questions for us to help build your mail-out test kit. Questions related to your center type, water consumption, and building information will be used to generate a sampling document called a “chain-of-custody” that will have each location to collect a water sample. We will also ask you questions related to socioeconomic and demographic information. After enrollment, you will receive training information on how to collect and ship water samples. You will also receive notifications when your sample test kit ships out.
Collecting a sample will involve filling a small water bottle for each tap used for drinking or cooking. UPS will pick up the samples so you don’t need to ship them yourself. See our videos on how to collect and ship samples, or read about the process.
Lead levels in drinking water may vary throughout the day, and are likely to be higher the longer water has been sitting, unused, in the pipes. For this reason, initial water samples are collected on a Monday morning before any water is used in the building. This is called “first-draw” sampling, and it is the method we are using because lead is most likely to be in drinking and cooking water after periods of inactivity. Since most childcare centers and schools are not used as much over the weekend, and very few are used overnight, sampling early in the morning gives us a “worst-case” scenario for what students may be exposed to, in most cases. Followup sampling may occur to confirm elevated lead levels, confirm an outlet is fixed after risk mitigation, or check for lead levels as the water is flushed through the system.
After samples are shipped to RTI International, they are logged into the system. The RTI International Trace Metals Laboratory analyzes water samples for lead in drinking water using state-of-the-science laboratory equipment that allows us to detect lead in drinking water at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb), also known as micrograms per liter (µg/L). We are certified by the state of North Carolina to use EPA Method 200.8. Please note that this program does not analyze water for contaminants other than lead.
Once your samples are analyzed and checked for compliance with laboratory quality assurance and control procedures, we will email you a notification letter and you can also check the online portal. The results will be provided along with tap-specific recommendations on how to use no-cost and low-cost solutions to improve water quality. The state that your center or school is in will also receive all results. The federal funding support for this program also mandates that lead results are publicly posted in a database that includes school name and address.
We will provide your laboratory results with clear recommendations on affordable water quality improvements, and tips for communicating with staff and parents. We will also provide basic information on installation and maintenance costs for a listing of filters certified to remove lead . You center can then make the decision about how to best implement our recommendations based on your budget. Depending on the level of lead, the action might include:
With your help, we can help lower our children’s exposure to lead with simple, affordable solutions.
We appreciate your willingness to help improve the water quality for your children and communicate efforts with parent, staff, and students. We encourage childcare providers to ask questions or comments on the portal for discussion with other centers.
The federal funding supporting testing and the corresponding rule requires that test results are posted publicly for transparency and awareness. All center data in the online enrollment survey will be kept confidential; however, the lead results, childcare center name, address, and testing date will be posted online across the state. Centers can choose to provide us with information on solutions implemented at problem taps so that information is also available publicly.