Admin

Safe Water Initiative

As part of the safety and security of the entire educational environment, Virginia Beach City Schools (VBCPS) is always working to protect and nurture the physical well-being of its students.

As part of that commitment, the division proactively began testing samples from drinking water sources within its schools in 2016. The samples collected during that cycle met state and federal lead-level limits of less than 15 parts per billion (ppb). 

A year later, a state law was passed that required 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 this year’s testing cycle, part of an ongoing, phased approach to testing, VBCPS focused on 33 schools constructed during or before 1986. This fall, when results came back, 96% of drinking and food prep sites were below threshold. However, 51 drinking and food-prep sources in 23 of those schools returned results with lead levels greater than 15 ppb, or what the industry refers to as “actionable levels.” 

It is important to note that the Environmental Protection Agency actionable level of 15 ppb of lead in water is markedly below levels that would pose a risk to children.  This is an intentional action to ensure the safety of children.  VBCPS has been advised by the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health and the University of Virginia’s Clinical Toxicology Program that, based upon reported water lead concentrations, the risk of elevated lead concentrations in children solely from school water consumption, is very low.   

VBCPS responded swiftly, beginning with the drinking water sources, where fixtures were taken offline or replaced and water re-tested. The administration is pleased to report that all water sources for drinking and food prep have either been taken out of service or tested below the 15 ppb threshold. Water sources that are not intended for drinking or food prep will be clearly identified as “Not for drinking or cooking.” Additionally, the testing protocol has been compressed so that drinking and food-prep water sources in all pre-1986 schools and buildings will be tested by December. Also, water sources in all drinking and food prep sites will be tested in all remaining buildings by the end of the school year. In any school where testing has not yet been completed, bottled water will be available on an add needed basis for students and staff. 

The schools affected during this testing cycle were: Bayside High School, Bayside Middle School, Creeds Elementary School, Fairfield Elementary 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, 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.

"We understand that this may be concerning news, especially if your child is in one of the schools that was affected," said VBCPS Superintendent Aaron Spence. "But we are working closely with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Beach City Public Utilities, both of which are providing guidance and support. Our testing protocol is in place for this very reason: to identify and correct issues expediently. We are and will remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of our students and staff in VBCPS." 

VBCPS has created a webpage, vbschools.com/safewater, where families can learn more about lead water levels, see the division’s recent test results and follow the progress of further testing. Families with specific questions about the health effects of lead are encouraged to contact their primary care physician, the Virginia Department of Health or other health professional.