Adams: 'Health and safety of our children come first'
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined the city’s other borough presidents in a letter to NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, urging the Department of Education (DOE) to take “immediate action” regarding elevated levels of lead in the drinking water at some New York City public schools.
A retesting of fixtures like sinks and water fountains, following new guidelines issued by the Environmental Protection Agency this fall, found nine times as many water outlets with lead amounts above the EPA’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion as testing under the old guidelines.
Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure because harmful effects occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults.
The “vast majority” of test results were not elevated, according to DOE. Some local schools that were found to have elevated levels of lead in one or more of their fixtures include P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights (four out of 89 water samples), P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill (one out of 73 samples); Automotive High School in Bedford Stuyvesant (31 out of 144 samples); P.S. 372 The Children’s School in Carroll Gardens (2 out of 60 samples); George Westinghouse HS in Downtown Brooklyn (26 out of 190 samples); Brooklyn Latin School in Williamsburg (3 out of 69 samples); and Brooklyn Tech HS in Fort Greene (29 out of 215 samples).
DOE says it has not been sitting idle on the lead problem. The city has implemented a monitoring, testing and replacement program that goes beyond federal guidelines.
The borough presidents, however, want DOE to go beyond these measures. In their letter, they asked that the city provide an alternative water supply for affected schools, such as bottled water or water coolers. They also want schools to offer free lead exposure testing for kids, install water filtration systems to prevent future contamination, and implement lead testing on a regular basis.
“The health and safety of our children come first, plain and simple,” BP Adams said in a release. He added, “Reports of elevated lead levels at some buildings need to be taken seriously, and that starts with ensuring every affected school has access to safe water and free lead exposure testing.”
DOE, however, says the extra steps recommended by the BPs are unnecessary.
“Parents can rest assured that water in schools is safe for students and staff to drink, and there is no need for bottled water,” DOE spokesperson Toya Holness told the Brooklyn Eagle. “There has never been a known case of lead poisoning due to drinking water in schools. Any drinking or cooking water fixture with results over 15ppb is immediately taken offline and remediated.”
Holness added, “The safety of students and staff is our top priority and we have rigorous testing and remediation protocols in place. Citywide testing is nearly complete, results are being shared with families, and any elevated fixtures have been successfully remediated or are remaining out of service until remediation is complete.”
Holness praised the quality of the water coming out of the city’s pipes and fountains.
“New York City’s drinking water is of the highest quality and the water delivered from the upstate reservoir system is lead free,” she said.
You can find out how your child's school tested at DOE's website: http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/watersafety.htm