Eligible Schools can Submit for Reimbursement to Mitigate Lead in Drinking Water

Department of Environmental Quality
  • January 26 2024

HELENA—New reimbursement funds are now available to help schools mitigate lead in drinking water. The 2023 legislative session provided 3.7 million for schools participating in the Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water Program, implemented by Montana's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The program provides technical support and funding for schools to test for lead in drinking water. If lead is found above 5.0 ug/L the fixture must be remediated. 

"DEQ has been working with schools across the state on sampling and remediation options in coordination with our state partners," said DEQ Water Quality Division Administrator Lindsey Krywaruchka. "About 71 percent of schools have had at least one exceedance of lead in drinking water. This funding will help schools cover remediation costs to lower the risk of lead exposure and protect children's health." 

The reimbursement program is a first come, first serve basis with a maximum reimbursement amount of $50,000 per school facility.  The maximum amount may be adjusted in the future based on need and availability of funds. Schools can apply for reimbursement through an online form on DEQ’s Lead in Schools website at: https://deq.mt.gov/water/programs/dw-lead

Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding can also be used to address lead in drinking water. Any remaining ESSER funds that have not already been obligated to another activity must be used prior to applying for this new reimbursement funding. Schools are required to submit supporting information on their use of ESSER funds as part of the application process for the new funding. ESSER funds are available through Montana's Office of Public Instruction (OPI). 

“These federal ESSER dollars have many flexible uses that reflect my Montana Hope initiative which focuses on student well-being,” said Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. “My team is available to help our schools utilize these funds to promote a healthy and safe teaching and learning environment.”

Testing for lead in school drinking water is a requirement for Montana schools that provide a basic instructional program that is approved by the Board of Education, as indicated in the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ (DPHHS) rules. DEQ, DPHHS and OPI work together on the Lead Reduction in School Drinking Water Program across the state. To date, 470 out of 590 schools have sampled for lead in drinking water. 

“Nothing is more important than protecting public health, and this provides an excellent avenue to continue this vital work,” said DPHHS State Toxicologist Dawn Nelson. “I encourage all schools to take advantage of this funding opportunity.”