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DHEC Offers Free Testing for Lead in Drinking Water at Schools, Child Care Centers through Federal Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 21, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. ― Through federal grant funding, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) can perform free testing at schools and child care centers that will detect the presence of lead in water. Exposure to lead can cause certain health effects, especially in children. 

Authorized under the federal Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, the “Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Grant” creates a voluntary program for DHEC to work with schools and childcare facilities by sampling their drinking and cooking water for lead. DHEC has received $519,000 in WIIN grant funding to help improve drinking water for South Carolina children.

“Even at very low levels of exposure, children’s health impacts from lead can include lower IQ levels, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, poor classroom performance, and other physical and behavioral effects,” said Jennifer Hughes, Assistant Chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Water. “This WIIN grant opportunity is a free and convenient way for schools and childcare centers to have their water checked so they can help protect the health and wellbeing of the children they care for.”

While DHEC regulates our state’s water systems to ensure water quality standards are met, lead is rarely present in drinking water when it leaves a treatment plant and instead seeps into drinking water if a school, childcare center or home has old plumbing with lead-containing pipes or components. Buildings constructed before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder because it wasn’t until the federal Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 that lead-containing plumbing began to be restricted.

Through the WIIN grant, DHEC will test the water coming out of a school’s or child care center’s drinking and cooking water faucets. All services associated with collecting the samples and the lab analyses will be provided at no cost, and the sample results will be provided to the facility and also made available on DHEC’s WIIN webpage. 

“Since DHEC received the WIIN funding in late 2019, more than 61 schools and child care centers have taken advantage of this important opportunity and have had their drinking water sampled,” said Debra Boston, DHEC’s WIIN Grant Project Manager. “We hope even more of our state’s schools and child care centers will contact us to have their water sampled before this grant funding expires on September 30, 2022.”

If lead is detected in a facility’s water sample, DHEC will notify the facility and provide information and resources about the short-term and permanent control measures a facility can take to address lead issues. While the WIIN grant funding can’t be used for remediation, DHEC and its partners stand ready to provide technical assistance to help resolve lead issues quickly.   

The South Carolina Department of Education, South Carolina Department of Social Services, Clemson University, the South Carolina Rural Water Association, regional and municipal water utilities, and local health departments have been instrumental in the implementation of this statewide opportunity to improve drinking water for children.

To learn more about the WIIN grant, visit www.scdhec.gov/WIINGrant. Any school or childcare center wishing to have its drinking and cooking water sampled can contact Debra Boston, DHEC’s WIIN Grant Project Manager, at 803-898-4214 or bostond@dhec.sc.gov.

Lean how DHEC helps keep drinking water safe and tips for reducing lead in water at scdhec.gov/yourhome.

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