Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Update on lead in school water and AM NY on need for more transparency from DOE

Credit: Metro NY
AM New York just ran an editorial decrying the lack of transparency of  DOE's findings on excessive levels of lead in school water,  as well as a handy map and other visuals showing the extent of the lead problem, with more than 80% of NYC public schools having at least one affected water outlet. 

The editorial highlights two schools where the levels found were especially alarming: PS 723, a District 75 school for special needs students in the Bronx where the lead levels were 6,000 times the "action" level of 15 parts per billion,  and William E. Grady Vocational High School in Brooklyn, which had more than 100 samples that violated this level, with three that tested above 30,000 parts per billion.

On May 9th, the DOE released an updated spreadsheet with information on every water fixture's lead levels on May 9th but it contains no information about remediation efforts or retesting after remediation was done. Here is a link to the DOE web page on lead; and here is a link to the  latest DOE lead test results.  

As the AM New York editorial pronounced,“Of course, most NYC school buildings are old, and finding some lead in the pipes is not a surprise. But the extent of the findings, both in the levels and the number of schools affected, is stunning. The problem has been exacerbated by the DOE’s insufficient public response....

While the DOE followed the guidelines in state legislation passed last year by sending letters home to parents and posting the letters to school websites, city officials should do more. A more comprehensive and user-friendly response by school and city officials is warranted. DOE should make sure its online school search functions include faucet-by-faucet lead levels, and explanations of the risks they pose. (Right now, none of that information is easily searchable.) It should publish lists of schools with the worst levels of lead, and issue clear explanations of the results and what parents need to know. The state health department should do more, too, perhaps by analyzing the city’s by-faucet data and providing resources and guidance.”

On May 16,  the City Council Committee on Education and Finance held hearings where Chancellor Rose testified that the remediation of the outlets would not be completed until sometime next year.  She also minimized the seriousness and the extent of the problem by emphasizing how most children drink out of outlets after the water has flowed for awhile -- which really misses the point.  For more on the lead issue, including how DOE was months late doing the mandated retesting according to the new state law, and how even the action level of 15 parts per billion is too high according to the American Pediatric Association, see our previous posts here and here.

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