School Resources and Information

Safe Drinking Water, "What role does the School Board play"?

In Vermont many schools have their own drinking water source which serves school staff and students. This drinking water source falls under the same federal and state regulatory requirements as a municipal or community drinking water source. School boards are tasked with heavy agendas which don't always include the drinking water system until it is in an urgent state.

What is the chain of command when it comes to drinking water system responsibility?

  1. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
  2. State of Vermont Water Supply Division
  3. Responsible person: The Principal
  4. Water operator: Predominantly the maintenance/custodial staff or a contract operator
  5. The school board

When it comes right down to it, the responsible person, the water system operator and the school board all have responsibilities regarding the water system. A good understanding of the water system and costs running the water system and good communications is crucial to staying in compliance with federal and state drinking water standards.

EPA develops the regulations which include which contaminants schools must test for and the frequency. The state of Vermont Water Supply Division ensures that the regulations are being followed and that contaminant testing is being done according to the federal regulations.

EPA and The Vermont Water Supply division require an operating permit for all water systems. This operating permit is like a driver's license. The operating permit describes the water systems components to include standby disinfection or continuous disinfection. The operating permit also lists any required water treatment such as corrosion control. Every 3-5 years the Vermont State Water Supply Division sends out sanitary surveyors to inspect your water system and make sure it is in compliance with federal and state regulations. When they have finished the sanitary survey they issue a new operating permit.

EPA and the state of Vermont Water Supply Division requires water systems to have a certified water operator. The state of Vermont manages the Operator Certification Program which provides guidance and training options to water operators. The water operators are responsible for up keep of their Water certification. School boards often do not budget money for Operators to keep up their certifications which require travel, training session fees and certification renewal fees.

The Principal is often designated the "responsible person" which means they often receive correspondence from the state of Vermont Water Supply Division regarding the water system. Often there is a breakdown in communication at this point of the chain of command. The "Responsible Person" often does not relay information from the state of Vermont to the Water Operator assuming that the water operator also received correspondence. When the water operator doesn't know the water system is out of compliance, they can't take steps to return the water system to compliance. When this happens the school water system is out of compliance for an extended period of time and it takes a lot more resources to return to compliance.

Operation and maintenance requirements to ensure the water system is compliant with federal regulations and providing safe drinking water. The water operator is tasked with operation and maintenance of the water system, according to Federal and State regulations. This often becomes a problem because school boards often do not budget for maintenance tasks such as a water reservoir cleaning which can cost $3000 + plus dollars so it is put off and the storage tank doesn't get cleaned because of lack of funding, which means staff and students continue to drink water from a dirty water reservoir all because it wasn't a budgeted item. School boards should get a budget summary from the water operator outlining funding needed to operate the water system.

This brings us to the School Board;

What responsibilities does the school board have? The biggest responsibility of the school board is budgeting for water system costs. In order to budget for water system costs the school board needs to know some of the federal and state regulations and requirements that must be adhered to. Here is a basic list of budget items a school board must take into consideration when developing their school budget. Keep in mind that a water systems will have unexpected failure of equipment that won't be budgeted for. Every water system will have different operating costs depending on size and complexity.

Water system operating budget:

Operator certification/ upkeep of certification

  • Cost of a contract operator if you do not have a certified water operator

Contaminant sampling:

  • Total Coliform Bacteriological sampling (Quarterly)
  • Nitrate Lead and Copper
  • Inorganic Chemicals
  • Volatile organic chemicals
  • Synthetic Organic chemicals
  • Radionuclides
  • Disinfection By products Resampling costs if any of these analysis are above the limits or you get a positive total coliform test

Waivers, permit renewal fees

Maintenance:

  • Water storage tank cleaning
  • Operations and Maintenance manual updates
  • Source protection Plan updates
  • Chemicals (Sodium hypochlorite for disinfection)
  • Well pump replacement
  • Chemical feed pump replacement
  • Distribution pump replacement
  • Hydropneumatic (pressure) tank replacement
  • Water leaks Plumbing fixes
  • Electrical repairs

Resources for learning more about your school water system

Montana water center has interactive training cds that you can download for free. There are many that explore water systems, contamination and such. This is a board specific cd link:
http://watercenter.montana.edu/training/dtrack/download.asp?DownloadID=9

EPA Resources for school water systems
http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/schoolsnh2o.html
http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/pdfs/Drinking-Water-Booklet.pdf
http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/schools/guidance.cfm#sdwa

Vermont Water Supply Division resources
http://www.vermontdrinkingwater.org/
http://www.vermontdrinkingwater.org/Operators_Main.htm
http://www.vermontdrinkingwater.org/permits.htm
http://www.vermontdrinkingwater.org/wsrules.htm

Vermont Rural Water Association is a resource for Superintendents, School Boards, Principals and School Water System Operators.
1-800-556-3792
www.vtruralwater.org