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News Releases from Region 04

EPA Awards Tennessee $697,000 in Funding to Test for Lead in School Drinking Water

Contact Information: 
Jason McDonald (
404-562-9203, 404-562-8400

TENNESSEE (April 21, 2020) —Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards $697,000 in grant funding to assist Tennessee with identifying sources of lead in drinking water in schools and childcare facilities.

“Addressing childhood lead exposure from drinking water sources is a top EPA priority,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “EPA is proud to help Tennessee protect children and families from lead exposure and invest in thoughtful, preventative actions."

“We are grateful to the Environmental Protection Agency for this grant that will go toward addressing sources of lead in drinking water for our children,” David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said. “We are committed to ensuring the health and safety of Tennessee’s children, and we look forward to continuing coordination with other Tennessee departments toward that end.”

Under EPA’s new Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program, EPA has awarded $43.7 million in grants towards funding the implementation of testing for lead in drinking water. This funding is a resource which creates or expands programs to test for lead in drinking water at schools and child care programs in states and the District of Columbia. EPA’s 3Ts (Training, Testing, and Taking Action) for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools will be used by the grantee to assist schools in implementing lead in drinking water testing including identifying sources of lead such as fountains.

 The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) and the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), plan to address lead exposure from drinking water by testing drinking water in Head Start/Early Head Start facilities and TDHS-licensed child care centers. TDEC, TDH, TDHS, and TDOE, will utilize EPAs 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities guidance as a model to:

 1) Communicate, throughout the implementation of the program, the results and important lead information to the public, parents, teachers, and larger community;
2) Train on the risks of lead in drinking water and testing for lead, as well as developing key partnerships to support the program;
3) Test using appropriate testing protocols and a certified laboratory; and
4) Take Action, including the development of a plan for responding to results of testing conducted and addressing potential elevated lead where necessary.

The information gathered will be disseminated out to all parties and will be used to help reduce lead exposure by utilizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s 3T Guidance of Training, Testing and Taking Action.

Under Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, in December 2018 EPA with its federal partners announced the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. Through the Action Plan, EPA is working to reduce lead exposures from multiple sources including: paint, ambient air, and soil and dust contamination. As part of the Action Plan, EPA proposed a rule in October 2019 that significantly improves the actions that water systems must take to reduce lead in the nation’s drinking water. This proposed rule represents the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991 and will better protect children in schools and child care facilities by requiring water systems, to take drinking water samples from the schools and child care facilities served by the system.

In addition, the agency is taking other significant actions to modernize aging water infrastructure and reduce exposure to lead, including:

  • Financing drinking water infrastructure improvement projects through EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. In 2019, 11 of the 38 selected projects will reduce lead or emerging drinking water contaminants.
  • Working with states, tribes, and territories to award $87 million in funding through EPA’s two new drinking water grant programs established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN)— the Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program and the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities grant program. EPA will announce funding details for WIIN’s third newly-created grant program dedicated to reducing lead in drinking water systems in early 2020.

Learn more about this grant and EPA’s WIIN grant programs at

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