Testing Drinking Water for Lead and Copper

Poudre School District is testing water fixtures at district schools and sites for both lead and copper. Please find information below about the testing process for both. If you have questions, please email watertesting@psdschools.org.

Copper Testing

December 2023 update

Drinking water at Wellington schools

It has been about a year since WMHS students tested drinking water at school, as part of a classroom experiment, and found elevated levels of copper. In the months since, PSD staff; public health officials; staff from Corona Environmental, hired by PSD to evaluate water in our schools; and employees from the Town of Wellington continue to work with PSD to improve water quality.  

  • Corona Environmental and PSD have entered into phase two of a water-quality improvement and monitoring plan. 
    • Even though there is some improvement noted in sampling results, Corona Environmental continues to recommend that PSD provide bottled water for drinking and food prep for the rest of fiscal year 2023-24.
    • Water softeners remain off, which may cause white calcium build-up in fixtures, especially with kitchen equipment. The calcium buildup is offset by the benefit of the pipes creating scaling, which helps improve the water quality in the long-term. 
  • The Town of Wellington is adjusting the pH level of the water to make it less basic.  

Testing at All PSD Sites

All PSD elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as non-school buildings in PSD, were tested for copper in the spring of 2023. Four samples were taken from each site: one at the source, where water comes into the building, and three further away from the source and spread out throughout the building. Testing was conducted by a laboratory certified by the state for heavy metals testing, including copper. 

House Bill 22-1358 only requires testing for lead. However, PSD opted to test drinking water for copper as well as a precaution. 

The Environmental Protection Agency's action level for copper in drinking water is 1.3 parts per million. The district is working to address elevated levels at the schools that had fixtures test at or above 1.3 parts per million. Test results for schools and sites that show elevated levels are posted below. Schools and sites with test results below this level are not posted. However, if you have questions about results for a specific school or site, please email watertesting@psdschools.org.

Elevated Copper Results at PSD Sites

  • Eyestone Elementary School
    • Sample 1 result: 1.37 
    • Sample 2 result: 1.33
  • Lopez Elementary School
    • Sample 1 result: 2.6
  • Rice Elementary School
    • Sample 1 result: 2.48
    • Sample 2 result: 1.87
    • Sample 3 result: 2.18
  • Wellington Middle-High School
    • Sample 1 result: 1.56
    • Sample 2 result: 1.78
  • PSD Global Academy 
    • Sample 1 result: 3.57

Mitigation measures at schools with elevated levels include turning off the impacted fixtures, continued water testing and, depending on test results and investigation, replacing fixtures, installing filters or turning off fixtures permanently. 


Lead Testing

A new Colorado law requires all licensed childcare programs and public schools serving preschool through eighth-grade students to test their drinking water for lead and take action when results show levels of lead at or above 5 parts per billion (ppb). The goal of this law is to lower children’s exposure to lead, a toxic metal. 

PSD has sampled more than 2,000 water fixtures at 34 PSD sites in compliance with the new Clean Water in Schools and Child Care Centers legislation, signed into law June 2022. Results by building were sent to school staff and families as they arrived and posted on the Colorado’s Test and Fix Water for Kids database.

The law requires testing all elementary and early childhood centers before the end of May 2023 and testing all schools serving grades 6-8 by the end of November 2024. PSD plans to test middle schools for lead during the 2023-24 school year – well ahead of the state’s deadline. PSD also plans to test high schools for lead in 2023-24, though high school testing is not required by the state.

Water samples from schools are sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which tests the samples and notifies the district of results, identifying samples that require the district to take action. 

School water sample results are available on the CDPHE Test and Fix Water for Kids website. Results may take up to 30 days to be posted.

PSD's Response to Test Results

Safety is a top priority. For fixtures where lead is found below 5 ppb, PSD continues routine practices to further lower potential exposure. When test results indicate higher lead levels (at or above 5ppb), PSD immediately takes this action:

  • Communicates to the principal, staff and families about the results and action being taken at their school,
  • Has a plumber turn off affected fixtures at the site,
  • Posts signs required by law in English, Spanish, and Arabic on the affected fixtures (see below), and
  • Notifies the the City of Fort Collins/City of Loveland/Town of Wellington/Town of Timnath and the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment of the test results. 

Required signage:

Signage stating not to consume the water at this faucet/fixture.

Signage in Arabic stating not to consume the water at this faucet/fixture.

Signage in Spanish stating not to consume the water at this faucet/fixture.


Long-Term Solutions to Reduce Exposure to Lead

Schools/childcare facilities that have lead in drinking water above 5 parts per billion (ppb) must take action to reduce exposure to lead. In PSD, when lead is found at or above 5 ppb, the fixture is shut off while a more long-term solution is underway. These solutions may include:

  • Permanently removing the fixture from service
  • Designating a fixture as “not for drinking”
  • Replacing drinking water faucets or fountains
  • Installing filters
  • Replacing pipes

PSD follows CDPHE’s protocol for required follow-up testing and remediation. The results of second-round testing are used to determine what long-term fixes are needed. PSD will complete any required remediation.

School water sample results are available on the CDPHE Test and Fix Water for Kids website. Results may take up to 30 days to be posted. Please know that PSD will continue to keep school communities updated throughout the process of addressing concerns at their school.



Frequently Asked Questions

Why are schools being tested for lead?

A new Colorado law, HB 22-1358, requires school districts in Colorado to test schools serving preschool through fifth-grades before May 31 this year and all schools serving sixth- through eighth-grades before the end of November 2024. Only lead testing is required by the new state law. 

PSD is going above and beyond the law by having high schools and office buildings tested too. The district has also opted to test drinking water for copper, in addition to lead. 

The goal of this law is to lower children’s exposure to lead, a toxic metal.

What levels are considered “elevated?” 

The state considers 5 parts per billion (ppb) or more an elevated level of lead (the state rounds up any measure at or above 4.5 ppb). This differs from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard, which considers 15 ppb an elevated level of lead. 

If schools show elevated levels of lead, what does PSD do? 

PSD retests locations in any schools that show elevated levels of lead with flush samples, per the state health department. A flush sample involves turning on the water for a minimum of 30 seconds before collecting a sample to determine if the source of the elevated levels are coming from the fixture or the plumbing. Depending on the results, PSD will remediate as soon as possible. Remediation measures may include replacing fixtures, plumbing below the fixtures, and/or adding a filter. 

Are schools tested again after PSD takes action to address issues?

Yes, testing is required within 90 days after remediation to determine if the district's actions have reduced lead to below state action level of 5 parts per billion. If levels remain elevated, further testing and remediation will be done. 

Can you tell me when my school's results will come back from the state?

Unfortunately, no. PSD does not know when results for each school tested will be released. CDPHE posts test results on its website as the agency makes them available: cdphe.colorado.gov/environment/lead-safety/test-and-fix-water-for-kids.

What are the health effects of lead?

Lead is a toxic metal that is especially harmful to young children. The degree of risk depends on the child’s total exposure to lead from all environmental sources – air, soil, dust, food, paint, consumer products, and water. Typically, old or corroded lead plumbing or old brass fixtures can contribute to increased lead levels in drinking water.

If you are concerned about your child’s exposure you can have their blood tested. Please contact your health provider to learn more about testing your child’s blood for lead. For more information please visit the CDPHE lead-testing website. 

Should I seek testing for lead for myself or my child?  Will PSD pay for lead testing for my student?

Please reach out to a medical provider to discuss any concerns you have regarding your or your child’s health. PSD is unable to provide medical advice or testing. As a first step, you might consider calling Colorado Poison Control: 303-389-1837 to discuss your questions and concerns. This is a free option.

As another option, Lincoln Middle School has a school-based health center operated by Every Child Pediatrics. The school health center has lead-testing equipment on site.

  • The center will see any student enrolled for care. Enrollment forms and information are available on the Health and Wellness Center website, by calling 970-488-4950, or emailing hwcenter@everychildpediatrics.org.
  • Appointments: Please call 970-488-4950 to make an appointment. Walk-ins can rarely be accommodated, so please schedule an appointment.
  • Costs based on ability to pay: The Health and Wellness Centers accept most private and public insurances, including Medicaid and CHP+. The centers offers fee-for-service and a sliding-fee-scale based on federal poverty guidelines. No student enrolled is ever turned away for inability to pay for services provided by a school-based health center.
  • More information is available on the PSD Student Health Centers web page. 

PSD is not paying or reimbursing families who choose to have their student(s) tested for lead levels. Please reach out to a medical provider to discuss any concerns you have regarding your or your child’s health. PSD is unable to provide medical advice or testing.

Where can children get drinking water at school?

Drinking fountains that do not have elevated levels of lead remain on and available to students and staff. Water bottle-filling stations are available in school hallways. Depending on the unique circumstances within a school and the impact of testing and remediation, the district may also provide bottled water.

Why does the State of Colorado have a lower threshold (5 parts per billion) for lead in drinking water than the EPA (5 parts per billion)?

We cannot speak for the state and its decision to set its threshold at a different level than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). PSD is sampling its drinking water sources in alignment with -- and in some cases above and beyond -- Colorado state law, and in the interest of student and staff health and safety.

PSD is also testing drinking water for copper, even though this isn't required by the new state law. Why?

In December 2022, PSD became aware that drinking water at some fixtures at Wellington Middle-High School and Rice Elementary School were above the Environmental Protection Agency's action level for copper in drinking water (1.3 parts per million). The district immediately partnered with the county and state health departments and Town of Wellington to address the situation (turn off the buildings' water softeners; bring in water coolers; and install filters on impacted fixtures) testing has continued, and PSD is working to address the elevated levels long term.

PSD has opted to test drinking water for copper, as well as lead, because of the presence of elevated copper in these two PSD schools in Wellington.

What is PSD's process and timeline for testing drinking water for copper?

Testing has already occurred at Wellington Middle-High School, Rice Elementary School, Eyestone Elementary School/the former Wellington Middle School, Bamford Elementary School and Timnath Middle-High School. Testing was conducted after elevated levels of copper in drinking water was found in some fixtures in WMHS in December 2022. PSD is developing the process and timeline for testing copper in its other schools, besides those listed above. Because copper testing isn't required under the new state law, PSD staff will take samples and send them to a laboratory certified by the state for heavy metals testing, including copper. Copper results will also be published publicly. PSD will share more information about this testing as it is available.The intention is to do this work in 2023.

Do PSD staff have to follow a specific process to take drinking water samples that are sent out for testing?

Yes. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment posts these water-sampling process instructions on its website: