ARPA Innovators: North Carolina Division of Public Health
by Ed Norman, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, with an introduction by Sarah Goodwin, NCHH.
This is the third entry in our “ARPA Innovators” blog series. If you want to read more about the goals of this series or brush up on general information about the American Rescue Plan Act, you can read our opening post here.
This entry is about North Carolina’s efforts addressing hazards in schools and child care. The state has allocated $150 million in ARPA funds for this work. From that funding, $32 million supports work to test water for lead and mitigate hazards in public schools. This work builds on the successful use of EPA WIIN grant funding to test water in licensed child care centers. Another $112 million has been allocated for lead paint and asbestos inspection and abatement in public schools and child care facilities.
North Carolina has had success testing licensed child care centers with EPA WIIN grant funding (to date about $1.5 million). The state Division of Public Health (where the CLPPP resides) is coordinating testing and follow-up services with RTI International, our contractor. RTI has used a citizen scientist approach, which allowed us to carry out child care water testing during the pandemic—so long as the facility was open. To assure our success, DPH adopted a rule amendment requiring licensed child centers to test all drinking water and food prep sinks periodically(once every three years). The rule took effect in October 2019; we received the first WIIN grant in January 2020 and by July, testing had begun. Child care operators enrolled online, received online training including a required webinar, determined taps to be tested and provided that information online, received test kits mailed from RTI, collected first draw samples per EPA 3Ts, and mailed samples back to RTI. RTI analyzed all initial water samples.
Local health departments were enlisted to assist my regional field staff (a dozen registered environmental health specialists/certified risk assessors) in collecting follow-up samples from all taps that were elevated (greater than 15 ppb) according to RTI water sample test results. This allowed us to triage the number of site visits required by program staff. We ended up collecting follow-up first draw and flushed water samples for 2.2% of the nearly 24,000 water samples that have been tested. Most centers with elevations had either one or two elevated taps, so nearly 500 site visits have been needed for follow-up testing. Enforcement of the new testing requirement is coordinated between the local health department and the state child care licensing agency. Issues to date have been minimal, and 90.5% of the 4,400 licensed centers have completed testing.
We’ve recently begun a much bigger project to test water for lead and mitigate all hazards identified at public schools with roughly $32 million of ARPA funds as a result of the most recent state budget bill last November.
The recent state budget bill also appropriated ARPA funds ($118 million) for lead paint and asbestos inspection and abatement at public schools & licensed child care facilities. The new law requires schools and child cares to inspect and, short of requiring abatement, it provides mitigation funds to incentivize the process. We’re anticipating a similar coordination of inspection services by RTI, and we’re in the midst of adopting temporary rules to implement both ARPA projects.
One barrier that emerged in the legislative process was a local match requirement ($1 for every $2 of funding allocated) for public schools that access mitigation funds for lead paint or asbestos. Child care facilities are not subject to the local match and water mitigation funds are not affected. Poor school districts, where we would like to target mitigation funds, will have difficulty raising the local match. We may end up funding lead paint and asbestos abatement mostly at older child care facilities, except for large school capital products that would likely be occurring anyway (and now would be eligible for two-thirds reimbursement).
For more information, visit www.cleanwaterforcarolinakids.org.
How Innovative Communities Are Using ARPA Funds to Transform Housing and Address Environmental Hazards
Read or revisit the introductory blog about our “ARPA Innovators” or visit another blog in this series:
The American Rescue Plan: A New Opportunity for Healthy Homes Funding
Read our previous blog about the American Rescue Plan, by NCHH’s Sarah Goodwin and Devra Levy from the Childhood Lead Action Project.
The American Rescue Plan: Opportunities to Address Lead in Paint and Pipes
This fact sheet from NCHH clarifies the applicable uses for ARPA funding by states and localities and demonstates how communities can benefit from investments in lead-based paint remediation and lead service line replavcement. [pdf; NCHH, 2021]
The American Rescue Plan: Opportunities to Address Lead Hazards in Homes
This fact sheet from NCHH clarifies the applicable uses for ARPA funding by states and localities and demonstates how communities can benefit from investments in various healthy homes-related programs. [pdf; NCHH, 2021]
Ed Norman, head of the Children’s Environmental Health Unit at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, has more than 30 years of experience working in public health and environmental regulatory programs. He became an epidemiologist with the North Carolina Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in 1990. Over the last 25 years, Ed has conducted lead investigations, analyzed blood lead and environmental data, published research on these data, implemented grants from the CDC, EPA, and HUD, and managed the state’s program. Through the years, he has administered the child care and school sanitation programs, and for the past decade, he’s also managed the EPA-authorized Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint programs. Ed is also a pretty good old-time and bluegrass musician!