News Feature | December 29, 2016

New York To Retest School Drinking Water For Lead Contamination

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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New York education officials announced this month that they would once more test all public school buildings in the city for unsafe levels of lead.

This announcement comes, according to The New York Times, after the first round of testing had been questioned. The city’s Department of Education (DOE) announced the new effort in a letter sent home to the parents of schoolchildren.

“Out of an abundance of caution and because ensuring the safety of our students and staff is our top priority, the D.O.E. will retest all school buildings based on the new protocol this winter,” the Times reported the letter saying.

State regulations were implemented this fall requiring new testing of the water in schools to “discourage the city’s earlier testing protocol, in which the water was run for two hours the night before sampling.”

That practice, known as pre-stagnation flushing, “can clean the pipes of soluble lead and lead particles, possibly distorting the results.” After The New York Times reported on the practice, the city said that it would adjust its testing guidelines.

In the spring, test results found “that less than 1 percent of the samples had lead concentrations that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘action level’ of 15 ppb.”

Few schools had thought to test their water until Newark, NJ, school officials announced in March that they had found high levels of lead in drinking water.

In May, following the Flint, MI, lead contamination crisis, more than a half-dozen school districts on Long Island, NY, had tested positive for elevated lead levels in water from drinking fountains and sinks.

According to WYNC News, the school districts where drinking water has shown elevated lead levels include Valley Stream Central High School, Bayport Blue-Point, Port Washington, Elwood, Northport and East Northport, and Valley Stream 13.

“The health and safety of our students and staff remains our highest priority. We will continue to update the community as additional testing is conducted and work is completed,” Northport superintendent Robert Banzer said in a letter to parents, according to NBC New York.

The New York Times reported that, according to a 2015 report by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the number of children with lead poisoning has declined in New York City since 2005.

To read more about lead issues visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.

Image credit: "School, April 2009" Wade Morgen © 2009 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/