Unsafe Lead Levels Found in Water in Yonkers Schools

Three dozen water fixtures in school buildings Yonkers, New York have been shut off because of unsafe lead levels, according to test results recently released by the school district.

Testing began in March, and the school district has faced criticism for not releasing the findings earlier, according to Lohud.com. The results come from 20 of the district’s 39 school buildings. On May 25, the district began sending letters home to parents with the results.

More than 420 water fixtures were tested in the schools, and 36 were found to have lead levels above the federal threshold of 20 parts per billion — including a reading of 1,040 parts per billion in the nurse’s office at one elementary building.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level for public water suppliers is 15 parts per billion, but for drinking water outlets like fountains or sinks, the EPA action level is 20 ppb. Jerilynne Fierstein, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the lab is still working on some of the testing so the report is not yet final, Lohud reports.

At a May 20 news conference, Yonkers school officials said that about 80 district water fountains and faucets had been found to have unsafe lead levels, including a high of 2,230 parts per billion, which is more than 100 times the federal threshold. That fountain or faucet  was not listed among the released reports on the district’s website. District officials said results of the testing at each school would be released only after all of the water fixtures at that school was completed, according to Lohud. Schools Superintendent Edwin Quezada said, “I think it’s a question of incomplete information, and none of us are comfortable releasing information that’s incomplete.”

According to the results released so far, 12 Yonkers schools had at least one water fixture that tested above the EPA threshold for safe drinking water for schools. Eight other schools had no fixtures that tested as unsafe: Casimir Pulaski School, Cedar Place School, Gibran School, Montessori School 27, Paideia School 15, Scholastic Academy, School 17 and School 22.

Lead exposure is especially dangerous to children. Children exposed to lead can suffer irreversible damage to their neurological systems. Exposure to lead can affect a child’s IQ, the ability to pay attention, and, ultimately, can have a negative impact on academic achievement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is no level of lead in the blood that is considered safe.

Lead in the water in schools often comes from old water lines and plumbing fixtures. Lead in school water has been a problem in school districts across the country, including Washington DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Newark, New Jersey. Baltimore schools have used bottled water for drinking and cooking since 2007, and Camden, New Jersey has used bottled water for 14 years, the New York Times reports. Parents of children in the Newark Public School have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming the district and city and state officials “poisoned” thousand of students by deliberately exposing them to toxic levels of lead in school water from March 2011 to the present. The lead caused gastrointestinal problems and cognitive-health problems.



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