Tuesday, August 20, 2019

High levels of lead in water still at many NYC schools; check to see if your child's school is on the list!

In all the news about peeling lead paint in schools, there has been little attention given to the fact that there were more than 500 NYC public schools and/or preK centers in which lead was found in the water above the “action” level of 15 parts per billion. 
The DOE spreadsheet showing the lead test results of water outlets in 534 schools is posted on this page.  DOE says that “One third of all schools were tested in this round, with the remainder of schools scheduled to be tested in 2019 and 2020.”  Of those 534 schools, more than 80% had at least one outlet with elevated levels of lead.  The detailed DOE spreadsheet is here

We created a new spreadsheet, adding tabs for fixtures found to have lead above the action level of 15 ppb sorted by district and by concentration (with outlets found to have the highest levels at the top).  The new spreadsheet is here.
Some of the schools with the highest levels are listed below, showing outlets with lead at 54 to 873 times the action level, with the most alarming results from a cold water faucet in the 4th floor boys bathroom in Prospect HS.  This outlet emitted water with lead at an incredible 13,100 parts per billion.  In that same school as well, a hallway fountain (or “bubbler”) on the 3rd floor was found to emit water at 3,070 parts per billion. 

But there are schools in every borough showing extremely high levels of lead. The districts with the highest counts include District 31 on Staten Island with 171 elevated outlets, District 28 in Queens with 167 outlets; and District 17 and District 22 in Brooklyn with 151 and 140 outlets respectively.  You can check the spreadsheet for your child’s school and classroom.
Remember that these outlets either did not show elevated levels of lead last time or have been remediated at least once.  Someone really ought to ask DOE officials why there are still so many outlets releasing water at such high levels if they took corrective action on all affected outlets already, and what if anything they plan to do differently at this point to ensure that their methods of testing and/or addressing the problem are more effective.
NRDC has a model state bill that would require remediation through water filtration, which as far as I know, DOE has not done.  Their model bill would also significantly lower the action to 1 part per billion.  As NRDC water expert Joan Matthews pointed out to City and State, and as research shows, “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water for kids.”  
The model bill is posted on the NRDC website here.  Illinois has ordered that parents be notified if their children’s schools report levels of lead in water about 5 ppb; and D.C. has lowered the action level for lead to 5 ppb and requires filtration systems in all schools.  Vermont has lowered the action level for remediation to 4 ppb for all schools and child care providers.
In the meantime, NYC parents should probably send their children to school every day with a bottle of water every day, and get their blood checked for lead annually.

Please add your comments below if your child's school is affected; if the DOE or your principal has informed you of this fact, and what if anything they've advised you to do.

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