Ensuring Drinking Water
Quality in Schools During
and After Extended
Closures
3Ts: TRAINING, TESTING, TAKING ACTION
oEPA
Developed in collaboration with the signatory agencies and organizations of the Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) on Reducing Lead Levels in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities: https://www.epa.gov/
ground-water-and-drinking-water/mou-reducing-lead-levels-drinking-water-schools-and-child-care.
The purpose of this factsheet is to 1) provide guidance to schools
on maintaining drinking water quality during extended closures,
and 2) recommend start-up procedures when reopening to ensure
that drinking water is safe for consumption.
When a school closes for an extended period (i.e., one week to several
months), the water in the building's plumbing will become stagnant. The
water may become unsafe for drinking, cleaning, cooking, or other purposes.
Stagnant water in plumbing may:
Support growth of bacteria, such as Legionella, or other
microorganisms that can cause disease, and
Have higher levels of metals, such as lead and/or copper from the
building plumbing components.
This factsheet is part of
EPA's 3Ts for Reducing Lead
in Drinking Water in Schools
and Child Care Facilities
(3Ts) Toolkit, referenced
in Important Resources
This factsheet includes
information for schools that
are served by or are public
water systems (PWSs),
Schools that are PWSs have
their own water supplies
and are regulated by the
EPA. This factsheet also
includes considerations
for lead sampling after
extended closures.
INFORMATION ABOUT EXTENDED CLOSURES FOR SCHOOL FACILITY
MANAGERS
What can schools do while they are closed to maintain water quality?
Completing the following steps during closures may help to avoid more complicated start-up procedures when
reopening. Many of these steps are routine procedures that should be part of normal operations. EPA's 3Ts Toolkit
Module 6 includes additional information about establishing routine practices, See Important Resources.
C\ Know Your Plumbing
To maintain water quality, you need to know how water enters and flows through your facility. EPA's 3Ts
Toolkit Module 4 provides examples of building plumbing configurations. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Water Management Program Toolkit provides guidance on how to
understand and describe your building's water system. See Important Resources for links to both toolkits,
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^ Consider Contacting a Water Professional
The instructions in this factsheet are necessary for the health and safety of children, staff, and other building
occupants. However, they include technical content. Consider speaking with a water professional for assistance.
Visit your water provider's website for more information or contact them to find out if your facility may be served
by a lead service line.
Closures also present a good opportunity to have a qualified plumber inspect the plumbing. For example, a
qualified plumber can:
Help you determine your plumbing configuration,
Ensure that the plumbing is functioning properly
and in good condition,
Confirm that there are no cross-connections
between your drinking water system and water
that is not safe to consume, or non-potable
water,
Check for lead or galvanized service lines, and
Identify any older faucets that are more likely
to contain lead.
 I Flush Your Plumbing System
Routinely flush all water outlets used for drinking or
food preparation. This is particularly important after
weekends and during long vacations. The longer
water has been sitting in pipes, the more lead it
may contain. "Flushing" involves opening valves and
letting faucets run long enough to remove standing
water in the interior pipes and/or the outlets. It is
important to know your plumbing, as described
above, because flushing times vary based on the
plumbing configuration in your facility. EPA's 3Ts
Toolkit Module 6 provides flushing best practices
and guidance for developing a flushing plan. In
addition, EPA's Guidance on Buildings with Low or
No Use addresses flushing.
See Important Resources
Consider Developing a Water
Management Program
CDC provides a toolkit on creating a water
management program (WMP) to reduce the risk of
Legionella growth. A WMP specific to your school can
help maintain drinking water quality in your plumbing
system See Important Resources
[f=1 Document Actions
c:
Any steps taken to prevent standing water and
maintain water quality in the school should be
documented. This will help determine if and what steps
are needed when reopening. Documenting actions may
also be useful in communicating actions to students,
parents, and staff upon reopening.
^ Maintain Water System Components
Cleaning faucets and drinking water fountains should be a routine practice that
continues during extended closures. The following activities should be conducted
to maintain water system components:
Remove and clean all aerators (or faucet screens) and drinking water fountain
strainers often and before flushing,
Replace any worn or damaged aerators with new ones before placing them
back on outlets after cleaning or flushing,
Maintain any water treatment systems in use, which may include point-of-entry
or point-of-use filters or water softeners,
Maintain filters per manufacturer's instructions as routine practice (for more
information on selecting filters, please see EPA's consumer tool referenced in
Important Resources), and
Keep cold water cold and hot water hot. CDC recommends keeping water
outside the range for Legionella growth, which is 77F to 108F. It is important
to maintain water heaters at appropriate temperatures while following local
and state anti-scald regulations. See Important Resources for CDC's guidance
on Legionella.
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What drinking water start-up procedures should schools conduct when
reopening after an extended closure?
Some schools may not be able to conduct the best practices described above during extended closures to maintain
water quality. These schools should conduct the following steps to prepare the drinking water system before water
is used by anyone, including students, staff, and others who occupy the building. Schools that were able to conduct
the best practices described above during extended closures may not need to conduct all of the following steps.
These steps provide additional precautions when reopening. EPA and CDC both have guidance on restoring water
quality after extended closures. See Important Resources.
Conduct Facility-Wide Flushing
Flushing removes stagnant water before anyone drinks
it. EPA recommends flushing after extended breaks to
maintain or restore water quality. Before flushing, the
plumbing should be inspected, and water treatment systems
should be maintained. Follow the steps in the previous
section above: Know Your Plumbing, Flush Your Plumbing
System, and Maintain Water System Components.
t Check Local Requirements
Contact your local health department for any steps
they might require before reopening. Your local health
department and water supplier may have information on
additional water testing for bacteria and/or lead.
Consider Additional Actions
You should review the potential impact
of poor water quality caused by the
extended closure on students, staff, and
other building occupants. You may want to
consider taking additional actions. These
may include limiting access to certain
outlets, contacting a water professional,
or developing a WMP. Factors to consider
include outlets used for consumption and
past issues with the plumbing system. EPA's
Guidance on Buildings with Low or No Use
and 3Ts Toolkit Module 6 provide guidance
for recommended additional actions. See
Important Resources
|=^ Document and Communicate Actions
If any issues arise with the school's water system or water quality communicate with students, parents, staff,
and other building occupants. You should also consider sharing actions taken to maintain or restore water
quality.
INFORMATION FOR SCHOOLS THAT ARE WATER SUPPLIERS
Schools that have their own water supply and/or treat their supply are regulated under the
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - as non-community water systems (NCWSs).
If your school is a NCWS that continued drinking water operations during a school closure, then you should follow
the steps above to maintain water quality during the closure.
NCWS schools that shut down operations
Under the EPA's Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR), there are required start-up procedures for seasonal systems
that shut down during operating seasons. This applies to schools that are NCWSs and shut down over breaks
(e.g., during summer months). Contact your state drinking water agency for details on the specific steps that are
required in your area. The EPA RTCR State Implementation Guidance recommends the following start-up steps,
some of which are similar to those above. See Important Resources for EPA's RTCR Implementation Guidance and
Template Factsheets for Primacy Agencies (Requirements for Seasonal Systems).
Inspect water system components and address any
issues.
Open hydrants and/or faucets.
Drain storage facilities.
Activate the source(s) and flush the entire system.
Disinfect the water system.
Collect water samples and have them tested for
bacteria and chlorine.
Contact your primacy agency for a site visit.
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LEAD SAMPLING CONSIDERATIONS
Water that has been sitting for weeks or months may have higher levels of metals, such as lead
and/or copper from the building plumbing components. The most common sources of lead in
drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.
There is no safe blood lead level in children. The best way to know if there is lead in drinking
water is to test for it. Starting in 2019, states began receiving federal funding under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act to conduct a voluntary program to assist
with testing for lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities. See Important Resources
for EPA's WIIN Lead Testing Grant Program.
Test your water for lead.
If you are served by a water utility they may test your water upon request. You may also contact
laboratories certified to test for lead in water. See Important Resources below for information on
how to find these laboratories.
Perform sampling at appropriate locations and times.
EPA's 3Ts Toolkit Module 4 recommends collecting lead samples that represent water typically consumed by students,
teachers, staff, and other facility occupants. Water that has been sitting stagnant for weeks or months (i.e., during
extended periods of closure) is not considered representative of typical drinking water.
Do not conduct sampling immediately after an extended closure or immediately after
flushing your facility's plumbing.
These samples would not represent typical water consumption. Ensure that you plan ahead to sample at an
appropriate time before serving water to students, teachers, staff, and other facility occupants. EPA's 3Ts Toolkit
Module 5 provides information on lead sampling and understanding results. See Important Resources below.
IMPORTANT RESOURCES (in order of appearance)
This factsheet builds on EPA's continued efforts to provide proactive steps to protect children's health. More
guidance on actions "building water systems" can take to minimize water stagnation during prolonged shut down
of operations can also be found on the EPA and CDC coronavirus websites.
EPA's 3Ts Toolkit for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities (Modules 1-7): https://www.
epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/5ts-reducing-lead-drinking-water-toolkit
Modules 4, 5, and 6 are referenced in this factsheet. The link provided will bring you to the 3Ts Toolkit homepage
where you can navigate to the 3Ts Manual and the individual modules.
CDC Water Management Program Toolkit: https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/wmp/toolkit/index.html
EPA's Information on Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use: https://www.epa.gov/
coronavirus/information-maintaining-or-restoring-water-quality-buildings-low-or-no-use
EPA's Consumer Tool for Identifying POU Drinking Water Filters Certified to Reduce Lead: https://www.epa.gov/
water-research/consumer-tool-identifying-pou-drinking-water-filters-certified-reduce-lead
CDC Guidance on Legionella for Building and Healthcare Facilities Owners and Managers: https://www.cdc.gov/
leg ionella/wmp/overview/growth-and-spread. html
CDC Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation: https://www.cdc.gov/
coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/buildi ng-water-system.html
EPA's RTCR Implementation Guidance: https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/total-coliform-rule-compliance-help-primacy-
agencies
Template Factsheets for Primacy Agencies (Requirements for Seasonal Systems): https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/
total-col iform-rule-compl iance-help-primacy-agencies
EPA's Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Grant:
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/grants
EPA's National Accredited Laboratory List: https://www.epa.gov/lead/national-lead-laboratory-accreditation-
prog ram-list
Office of Water (4606M)
EPA 810-F-21-002
March 2021
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