Missouri schools can be reimbursed for efforts to reduce lead in water

Schools can now be reimbursed for costs they incur while taking steps to reduce lead in drinking water.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is accepting reimbursement applications from public schools for the cost of testing drinking water for lead contamination and taking corrective action if the content is 5 parts per billion or more.

The requirements for testing drinking water came from Senate Bill 681, passed in the 2022 legislative session.

The 2023 state budget included $27 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to assist schools with the process.

Funds must go to a public school or affiliated early education program receiving state funding. Each district is eligible for at least $5,000, and the maximum amount is determined by 2022-23 enrollment and economic need of the student body.

School districts can receive a maximum of $20.47 per student, although "disadvantaged school districts" can receive $61.40 per student.

To qualify as disadvantaged, at least 70 percent of students must qualify for free and reduced lunch or 25 percent of households in the district's counties must fall below federal poverty guidelines.

The department will only reimburse for expenses between March 3, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2024.

The application for reimbursement is available from now until Jan. 31, 2024. More information can be found at https://health.mo.gov/living/environment/get-the-lead-out-of-school/.

Fulton 58 School District is eligible for $50,746.51.

Jefferson City School District is eligible for $183,032.72.

Missouri School for the Deaf is eligible for $6,043.88.

New Bloomfield R-III School District is eligible for $18,672.78.

North Callaway R-I School District is eligible for $25,979.94.

South Callaway R-I School District is eligible for $20,514.92.

None of those local districts qualify as disadvantaged districts, so they are eligible only for the standard amount.

Jefferson City School District began lead testing at some of its buildings during the summer in preparation for the new law.

Facilities staff began testing drinking fountains, bottle-filling stations, sinks and ice dispensers in buildings that were vacant over the summer.

It tested Callaway Hills Elementary, Central Office, the Education Center at Dix Road, parts of Jefferson City High School, Lewis and Clark Middle School, South Elementary and West Elementary.

Only Callaway Hills and Lewis and Clark Middle School had fixtures with lead levels of more than 5 parts per billion.

Of the 21 fixtures at Callaway Hills, five were above the limit: four classroom faucets and a kitchen faucet.

At LCMS, four fixtures were above the reporting limit: two sinks, an exterior water hydrant, and a steamer.

To fix the issues, fixtures and water lines were replaced and retested.