R-Centers Lead Testing

Legislation passed by New York State in 2016 requires all public schools to test for lead in drinking water. Although not required by this law, the City of Rochester has taken a proactive approach, conducting lead testing of water samples collected from water fixtures used for drinking and cooking at all City Recreation Centers in early September of 2016. The samples were collected using guidance from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled “3T’s for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Child Care Facilities: Revised Guidance” (3Ts Guidance). This guidance requires that plumbing fixtures not be used for 8-18 hours prior to collecting a sample. This “stagnation period” characterizes the tendency of water fixtures to contribute lead to drinking water, but may not represent the actual concentration of lead in the water at all times.

Why test R-Center drinking water for lead?

The EPA has determined that lead in drinking water may be a health concern at certain levels of exposure. Lead is found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, and food, certain types of pottery, porcelain and pewter, and sometimes, water. Lead can pose a significant risk to health if too much of it enters the body. Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that will not hurt adults can impair normal mental and physical development of children.  Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can increase a person’s total lead exposure, particularly in children under the age of 6. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead.

How lead enters the water

Lead is not found in the lake waters that supply Rochester’s drinking water. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of water being in contact with materials containing lead in water services and building plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass, and chrome-plated brass faucets. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8% by weight. However, even the lead in plumbing materials meeting those requirements can contribute to lead in drinking water. When water stands in pipes or plumbing fixtures containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve into the drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the faucet in the morning may contain fairly high levels of lead.

Results of our testing

Following instructions given in USEPA’s 3T’s guidance especially designed for child care facilities, a plumbing inventory was completed for each of the Recreation Center buildings in the City. Through this effort, water fixtures used for drinking water or cooking were identified and tested. The inventory included every drinking fountain, and all kitchen sinks used for food preparation. Of the 104 samples collected, all but 9 tested well below New York State’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for lead. None of the 9 locations that exceeded the action level were from drinking fountains. The locations that exceeded the action level were 7 hand sinks, a vegetable sink and a wash sink.

What was done about the high results?

Immediately upon receipt of sample results, City personnel turned off the water supply to these nine fixtures and replaced them with new, lead free fixtures. Follow up samples from these locations were collected to ensure the lead levels are below the New York State requirement. The results of follow up samples showed that fixture replacement was effective in reducing lead below the action level in 15 ppb at all locations. The lead levels for these locations are included in the following table: 

Building:  Location:  Fixture Type:   First Result
(parts per billion):
Follow up Result
(parts per billion):
Edgerton R-Center  Ballroom kitchen Faucet - 1 bay hand sink 26


Gantt R-Center  Day care kitchen Faucet - 1 bay hand sink 25


Flint St R-Center  Kitchen Faucet - 1 bay hand sink 17


Genesee Valley Park  Kitchen Faucet - 1 bay hand sink 25


Genesee Valley Park  Garage concession stand Faucet - 1 bay hand sink 160


Marketview Lodge  Kitchen Faucet - 3 wash sink 170


Marketview Lodge  Kitchen Faucet - 1 hand sink 53


Martin Luther King Lodge  Kitchen Faucet - 1 bay hand sink 15


Ryan R-Center  Kitchen Faucet - 1 bay vegetable sink 28


The Clinton-Baden R-center was also tested in the midst of the recent building construction project. The sampling conducted was not representative of normal conditions because the water in the building had stagnated for weeks before sampling. The results of these samples were high, but not considered to be valid due to the long stagnation period. A second round of sampling done after the installation of new drinking fountains with filters for lead removal before the building was re-opened showed all fixtures were below the action level of 15 parts per billion.

Is the water at City of Rochester R-centers safe?

Sampling results show that the water available to children at the r-centers is safe. All fixtures (sinks) that exceeded the NYS action level were turned off immediately, and replaced with lead-free units. The New York State Department of Health and the Monroe County Department of Public Health do not think drinking water from schools or child care settings is a significant source of lead. Keep in mind, the results are from a first draw sample after water has not been used for 8-18 hours. Since routine water usage occurs throughout the day, lead levels from fixtures will generally be lower than these test results.

How can I learn more?

Download a summary of the test results 

For more information about lead, please consider the following resources:

If you have any additional concerns about your child and lead exposure, we encourage you to discuss the matter with your health care provider.