2002-11-16 / Front Page

Local Schools Test Positive For Lead

Local Schools Test Positive For Lead

Two Rockaway schools, PS 104 in Bayswater and PS 105 in Arverne have tested positive for lead in their water systems, according to a recent announcement by the New York City Department of Education.

At PS 104, water from a drinking fountain in the building was found to have excessive levels of lead and it was shut down immediately.

At PS 105, water from a sink where children wash their hands after eating was found to have excessive levels of lead. It too was shut down.

There was no indication at press time as to when the problems would be remediated, but officials would say that the devices would be shut down until they could be fixed. Signs will be posted at all of the water facilities that have been closed in the wake of the study.

Chancellor Joel Klein says that he and other agencies joined in the study to insure the safety of the city’s school children.

"I firmly believe that we must do everything we can to ensure the safety of our children in our schools,’ Chancellor Klein said. "For this reason, I have called on my staff to work with EPA, Department of Health and the DEP to develop a comprehensive program and test the drinking water in our 1,200 schools. The schools’ water supply is the same as the city’s, and it is safe and meets all federal and state drinking water standards for lead."

According to school officials, comprehensive sampling at all 900 elementary school buildings to determine whether the drinking water at fountains and sinks did not exceed the U.S. EPA recommended maximum level of 20 parts per billion of lead in potable water. The results of the elementary school testing program determined that at the vast majority of elementary school buildings the fountains or sinks were below the recommended level. There were 19,136 outlets tested and of these 3 percent showed elevated levels of lead. Two hundred twenty-two schools had one or more outlets with elevated lead levels; however, the majority of outlets with elevated levels were sinks meant for hand washing.

In August, the city took the initial step of flushing the water system of all city schools on a daily basis to minimize the possibility of any lead in the water until each school had its water tested. The Department decided to test elementary schools first because the EPA had determined that lead in drinking water above certain levels is a health concern to children under six years of age. The Department completed the testing in October and has just sent out notification letters to principals, parent associations, and unions informing them that the results of the tests are being posted at each school.

The Department has already begun its next step in the program: the testing of all middle and high schools. The Department expects to complete that testing by the end of this calendar year. Letters are being sent to principals, parent associations, and unions associated with the middle and high schools informing them of the testing program. Upon completion of the testing, these groups will be notified in the same manner as the elementary schools.

Those test results should be available in late December, according to an agency spokesperson.

According to the spokesperson, any parent who is concerned with the water in his or her child’s school may call the Department’s drinking water hotline at 718-482-3777.

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