History of the VBCPS Safe Water Initiative

Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) proactively began testing samples from drinking water sources within its schools during the 2016–2017 school year. All samples collected at that time met state and federal lead-level limits, which are less than 15 parts per billion (ppb).

In 2017, the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1359 public schools to develop and execute a plan to test drinking water, prioritizing schools built in or before 1986.

In the summer of 2019, VBCPS applied its testing protocol to all potable water sources, to include those for drinking and food preparation, as well as showers and sinks that dispense water generally not intended for human consumption. During that testing cycle, VBCPS focused on 33 schools constructed during or before 1986. When results came back, 96% of drinking and food prep sites were below threshold. However, 51 drinking and food-prep sources in 25 of those schools returned results with lead levels greater than 15 ppb, or what the industry refers to as “actionable levels.” Those water sources were taken offline or replaced and re-tested to confirm that levels were below the 15 ppb threshold. Water sources not intended for drinking or food prep were clearly identified as “Not for drinking or cooking.”

The schools affected during this testing cycle were: Bayside High School, Bayside Middle School, Creeds Elementary School, Fairfield Elementary School, First Colonial High School, Green Run Elementary School, Holland Elementary School, Independence Middle School, Kempsville Middle School, King's Grant Elementary School, Kingston Elementary School, Laskin Road Annex, Lynnhaven Elementary School, Lynnhaven Middle School, Malibu Elementary School, North Landing Elementary School, Pembroke Elementary School, Pembroke Meadows Elementary School, Plaza Middle School, Princess Anne Elementary School, Princess Anne High School, Princess Anne Middle School, Shelton Park Elementary School, Trantwood Elementary School and Bettie F. Williams Elementary School.

Testing of drinking and food-prep water sources in all pre-1986 schools and buildings was completed by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

A new school lead testing bill (SB392 & HB797) became effective July 1, 2020. This legislation stipulates that:

  • “Each local school board shall develop and implement a plan to test and, if necessary, remediate potable water from sources identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as high priority for testing, including bubbler-style and cooler-style drinking fountains, cafeteria or kitchen taps, classroom combination sinks and drinking fountains, and sinks known to be or visibly used for consumption. Such plan shall be consistent with guidance published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Health. The local school board shall give priority in the testing plan to schools whose school building was constructed, in whole or in part, before 1986. Each local school board shall submit such testing plan and report the results of any such test to the Department of Health. Each local school board shall take all steps necessary to notify parents if testing results indicate lead contamination that exceeds 10 parts per billion.”

In response to the new regulation, the VBCPS water testing team revisited the 2019 results and found that all consumable water outlets were in full compliance at the time they were tested or remediated. However, due to the lowered notification level (>10ppb), VBCPS believes it is in the best interest of the division and the community to retest and remediate any consumable outlets that had results that fell between 10 and 15 ppb. This includes 70 outlets at 29 schools and one administration facility. This testing will be completed during the 2020-21 school year. Families and staff are notified when testing is scheduled to be conducted in their school.

Key points of the VBCPS Safe Water Initiative

  • Initial testing for lead and mitigation has been completed on all buildings built on or before 1986.
  • VBCPS will test consumable water sources at all facilities built before 2014. A list of the schools scheduled for testing during the 2021-22 school year is available HERE.
  • “Not for Drinking or Cooking” signs will remain at water sources not intended for consumption in pre-2014 facilities.
  • Individual, routine flushing plans are in place for each building to maintain water quality.
  • VBCPS will continue to use the expertise of Virginia Beach Public Utilities and AH Environmental Consultants.