Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead Testing in Drinking Water

1 - Lead Testing Logo - Horizontal Full Color

Drinking water in the test tube for chemical and microbiological analysis

Help the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center (GLITEC) test for a toxic metal (lead) that may be found in drinking water in the Bemidji Area. On March 25, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $26 million in new funding for states, territories, and tribes to test for lead in schools and childcare facilities located in low-income and disadvantaged communities in 2020. This grant program continues to help protect children’s health in these communities and make progress under the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures. On July 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the $4.3M grant program to help protect children in tribal communities from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities. With this action, the agency continues to make meaningful progress towards engaging with and working to protect children’s health in these traditionally underserved communities.

With the funding appropriated under section 1464(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), amended by the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIN) section 2107, the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center (GLITEC) plans to offer free lead testing in drinking water for Tribal Education Agencies (TEAs) within the Indian Health Service (IHS) Bemidji Area. GLITEC will cover the Tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin, while the Tribes in Michigan will contact the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) to learn more about this program.

In accordance with America’s Waters Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018, which amended the SDWA section 1464(d), GLITEC and their partners at the Indian Health Service (IHS) Bemidji Area Office will assist in voluntary testing for lead contamination in drinking water at TEAs in the Bemidji Area. All TEAs in the Bemidji Area will be invited to participate and participation is this program is voluntary.

We anticipate working with several facilities, including Tribally operated childcare centers, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Head Start and Early Head Start Centers, Tribally-operated schools, and other childcare centers deemed necessary for testing by Tribal leadership. Exposure to even small amounts of lead over a short period of time can be harmful to a child’s normal growth and development. One area of action is identifying and addressing concerns with lead in drinking water at Tribal schools and childcare facilities. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are plumbing materials which contain lead, such as lead solder and lead pipes (used in older buildings), and water coolers which have brass fitting or lead-lined tanks. There is no safe level of lead in drinking water.

The principal objective of this program is to help assist local Tribal education agencies to test for lead contamination in drinking water at schools and childcare programs. Over the next two years, the objectives of this program are the following:

  1. Identify Tribal TEAs that have higher potential of lead in drinking water,
  2. Provide free lead testing to those TEAs who choose to participate in this program,
  3. Take action to reduce lead in drinking water by providing education and assistance to facilities who have high levels of lead in their drinking water.

By participating in this program, your facility will contribute to reducing lead exposure in children and lessen the harmful health impacts from lead. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude in advance for your support of this program as we proceed with our initiative to improve public health protection for children. The protection of the health and well-being of Tribal children is important to GLITEC and for the next seven generations to come. This program is funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).