Dear Commons Community,
Coming on the heels of the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, school officials in Newark, New Jersey prepared to begin testing young children for lead poisoning this week. School officials in Newark yesterday acknowledged that water in the city’s schools had contained elevated levels of lead for years. As reported in the New York Times:
“Reports from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to be released on Thursday showed that levels of lead above 15 parts per billion, the threshold at which the federal Environmental Protection Agency suggests taking action, had been found in about 250 samples of water in the schools in the past four years. Similar levels of lead had been found in the tests taken over the past few months, which led officials to shut off the faucets and drinking fountains at 30 of the city’s 67 schools and immediately bring in bottled water.
“As a parent, I too find the fact that the district has identified elevated levels of lead in water in each of these past years extremely concerning,” Christopher Cerf, the superintendent of Newark Public Schools, said in an interview.
Mr. Cerf said the school district was working with the state environmental department to develop a plan for testing and retesting the water in the schools, starting on Saturday. He said that samples would be taken from school buildings that had not previously been tested, and that the 30 schools where high levels of lead had been found most recently would be tested again…
But Mr. Cerf said the discovery of dangerously high levels of lead in the public water system in Flint, Mich., had changed the way people responded to the issue.
“Our national consciousness has been raised by other national events,” he said. “I think the way the world would receive these data is different after Flint.”
Schools are not required to test their water, but the Newark schools have been having it tested for more than a decade, Mr. Cerf said. The Newark schools have had a protocol of flushing pipes and replacing filters since 2004, he said.
From 2004 through 2011, different companies collected the samples, and those reports will be released when they are available, the district said.
About 12 percent of 2,067 samples taken in the schools since 2012 had lead above the “federal action level” of 15 parts per billion, the school district said.
Health officials say that there is no safe amount of lead in drinking water and that it poses the most danger to young children, potentially causing behavior problems and learning disabilities. Testing of children for lead poisoning is being offered first, starting on Thursday, at two of the affected schools that have early-childhood programs.”