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Lead in Drinking Water: Addressing needs in SC Daycare Centers

Sources of lead in drinking waterA recent study stated that lead is still the most prevalent contaminants in US school drinking water. Lead can enter drinking water from service lines and lead-containing plumbing, particularly in the presence of corrosive water. While testing for lead in drinking public water systems is mandatory across the US, testing taps and remediating contamination is still voluntary for most schools. These actions are critical because lead can have neurodevelopmental effects in children, even at low levels of exposure. Addressing this potential gap in knowledge, the state of South Carolina has performed water testing in 668 public water systems across the state. Defining an action level for lead as greater than 15 ppb or 0.015 mg/L and covering the period between 2014 and 2018, this report allowed the identification of 30 critical areas with samples above the action level, out of which the vast majority of them have been corrected.

Using this report as framework, and aiming to identify potential sources of lead contamination in drinking water outlets, we proposed to obtain and test water samples from 20 day care centers in South Carolina. As a priority, the project will focus on those centers that have tested above the action level at least once in the reported period. The project will then target the oldest centers in the region, as reported by the Department of Education. Other educational centers, such as schools will be tested by EPA.

Project Objectives

The project will provide financial support required to travel to the selected centers, sample at several drinking water outlets, and obtain at least 2 samples at different times on each outlet. Timestamps will include first-draw samples (9 hour stagnation, sample obtained before any water is used in the building) and then 1 hour after normal activities using a 30 sec flush. In order to minimize variability, Dr. Garcia (PI) and Dr. Chumanov (co-PI) will recruit students from Clemson University who will drive to the centers and collect the samples in ah-hoc vials. Students will also inspect the faucets and exposed plumbing fixtures to determine potential problems (solder, brass, etc) and collect information about the building (year built, remodel year, etc).

Participation Form

EPA logo

If you would like to participate in the program, please complete the following form. Testing of water samples will be performed in Chemistry Department at Clemson University using state-of-the-art instrumentation and EPA certified protocols. This will require only minimum effort on your part as we will come to your address to collect the samples. We fully appreciate your busy schedule, but hope that you will choose to participate. The test will have no cost to you and individual results will be only reported back to you. Aggregated data will used to compile a general report (no individual results) to be submitted to the EPA. We would appreciate your willingness to collaborate with us on this project.

The form (https://forms.gle/FSorkbpwFPQDgCpo8) will help you to respond to this invitation. You may also scan the QR code with your phone.


Student involvement

The program is open to all Clemson students in good academic standing. Experience in Analytical Chemistry (or equivalent training obtained through research experience) is prefered but not required.
Students interested will receive credit in CH 4000 - Special topics in Chemistry (3 credits). Students participating in the program will have the opportunity to learn about an entire analytical project and receive training in sample collection, sample analysis (by ICP-MS), and scientific writting.
If you are interested, please send 1-page CV and one letter of reference to cdgarci@clemson.edu
To receive full consideration, applications should be complete by October 15, 2019


Financial Support for this Project

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The program is supported by EPA's College Underserved/Community Partnership Program. This program was created to provide a creative approach to partnering and delivering technical assistance to underserved communities from local colleges and universities. CUPP enlists colleges and universities, with appropriate programs, to assist these underserved communities, with vital technical support, through student internships and capstone projects. Students work on a range of plans and projects that help communities gain access to resources that can improve the economic future and overall quality of life for the community. At the same time, CUPP provides practical experience for participating students in their areas of academic study, and students generally receive academic credit for their efforts. The communities receive vital services at no cost, and the schools provide their services at no cost to the federal government. The program began with four schools in the fall of 2013, 14 in the fall of 2014, and 35 in the fall of 2015. The CUPP program currently has 71 schools, aligned with 64 different communities.