The goal of the Clean Water for Carolina Kids program is to identify and remove the metal lead (Pb) in drinking and cooking water at child care centers and schools. Our approach is for you to:
This program is led by the nonprofit research institute RTI International, with program partners including the North Carolina Division of Public Health, the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education, the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health Laboratory, NC Child, and the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.
Testing for lead in drinking and cooking taps at all licensed North Carolina child care centers and pre-Kindergarten Head Start programs is now required. Initial testing is FREE thanks to a federal grant.
This Clean Water for Carolina Kids online portal is designed for easy online participant enrollment, sample test kit creation, test kit tracking, reminder notifications, data view and reporting by county, city, and center in an online mapper, and data archiving for participants and program partners. The system also implements industry-standard cybersecurity protocols to protect study participant privacy and interface directly with laboratory systems, allowing for seamless data import and review.
The system can be used on a smartphone and does not require computer access.
After clicking to enroll, you will be led through a series of questions for us to help build your mail-out test kit. Responses about your center type, water consumption, and building information is used to generate a sampling document called a “chain-of-custody” that names each location to collect a water sample. We will also ask you questions related to socioeconomic and demographic information to help prioritize our centers based on need. After enrollment, you will receive training written information and can see videos online about how to collect and ship water samples. You will also receive notifications when your sample test kit ships out.
Collecting a sample will involve filling a small water bottle for each tap used for drinking or cooking. UPS will pick up the samples so you do not need to ship them yourself. See our videos on how to collect and ship samples, or read about the process.
Lead levels in drinking water may vary throughout the day, and are likely to be higher the longer water has been sitting, unused, in the pipes. For this reason, water samples must be collected on a Monday morning before any water is used in the building. This is called “first-draw” sampling, and it is the method we are using because lead is most likely to be in drinking and cooking water after periods of inactivity. Since most child care centers are not used over the weekend, and very few are used overnight, sampling early in the morning gives us a “worst-case” scenario for what students may be exposed to, in most cases.
The state of North Carolina will follow up with a random selection of child care centers to ensure that the sampling protocol is followed. If results appear unusual and potentially a result of an incorrect sampling protocol, the state of North Carolina may also inspect and retest the center to confirm results.
After samples are shipped to RTI International, they are logged into the system. The RTI International Trace Metals Laboratory analyzes water samples using state-of-the-science laboratory equipment that allows us to detect lead in drinking water at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb), also known as micrograms per liter (µg/L). We are certified by the state of North Carolina to use EPA Method 200.8. Please note that this program does not analyze water for contaminants other than lead.
Once your samples are analyzed and verified using our quality assurance and control procedures, we email you a notification letter and your results are also present in your online portal. The results are provided along with tap-specific recommendations on how to use no-cost and low-cost solutions to improve water quality. The state of North Carolina will also receive all results. For licensed centers, if a tap is above 10 ppb lead, a local or state health official will visit the school within 10 business days to retest the tap and provide additional recommendations to fix the issue. On December 1, 2021, the state of North Carolina lowered their lead action level from 15 ppb to 10 ppb. The federal funding support for this program also mandates that lead results are publicly posted in a database that includes center name, address, tap name, the result, test date, and risk mitigation actions, if centers choose to provide us with that information. All other identifying information is removed.
We will provide your laboratory results with clear recommendations on affordable water quality improvements, and tips for communicating with staff and parents. We will also provide basic information on installation and maintenance costs for a listing of filters certified to remove lead, , how to replace a faucet fixture, and more. Your center can then make the decision about how to best implement our recommendations based on your budget. Depending on the level of lead, the action might include:
With your help, we can help lower North Carolina children’s exposure to lead with simple, affordable solutions.
We appreciate your willingness to help improve the water quality for your children and communicate efforts with parent, staff, and students. We encourage child care providers to ask questions or comments using our contact page, and discuss this program with other centers and child care associations.
It is also a state requirement for child care centers to notify parents of any tap that exceeds 10 ppb within five business days of receiving online notification. Centers may use the specific results letter we provide to each center. It is also a state requirement that the center make the test results available to the public free of charge by posting the testing to the center’s website or to our public data mapper.
In cases where a tap is detected above 10 ppb, you will receive an on-site visit by a local or state health official for in-person support.
The federal grant supporting this program and the corresponding state rule requires that test results be posted publicly for transparency and awareness. All center data in the online enrollment survey will be kept confidential; however, the lead concentration results, child care center name, address, and testing date will be posted online. Centers can choose to provide us with information on solutions implemented at problem taps so that risk mitigation information is also available publicly.