NEW YORK — Amid fears of elevated lead levels in water running through Newark schools’ taps and in Flint, Mich., New York City has launched a website to show lead levels at schools — both private and parochial — throughout the five boroughs.
The site requires users to type in the name of the school they wish to see. Click here to use the program and see a school’s lead-test results. If a school was built after 1986, it won’t appear on the list because it does not contain lead plumbing and therefore won’t be tested, the city said.
“Recent events nationally and regionally have raised awareness, concern and questions about lead levels in drinking water,” NYC education chancellor Carmen Farina said in a letter to students and families dated March 23. “We want to assure you that New York City’s water is extraordinarily safe. This includes water in the NYC schools.”
Concerns about drinking-water safety have been growing nationwide, spurred by a crisis in Flint, Mich., where residents had been drinking lead-contaminated water for nearly a year before officials admitted the problem and declared an emergency.
Earlier this month, all water fountains were shut off at 30 school buildings in Newark, N.J., because of elevated lead levels. Bottled water and water coolers were brought in for students and staff as a remedy that turned out to be insufficient and prompted the mayor of Newark to solicit donations so the district could buy more cases of bottled water.
PIX11 News learned school officials knew about the tainted water for two days before they alerted parents. Due to logistics, students were drinking contaminated water.
The problem in Newark is being blamed on pipes that service the schools. The head of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection said the water became contaminated when it hit the pipes leading into the schools, and was not tainted at the water source.
In Michigan, a decision in April 2014 to temporarily switch Flint’s water source and use water from the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure has been identified as the key catalyst of the problem there. Corrosive water from the Flint River leached lead into the city’s drinking supplies.
Farina said the city tests its water more than 500,000 times a year at “various points throughout the system.”
If water from a public school building is found to have elevated lead levels, the city sets in motion protocols including weekly flushing and equipment replacement, she said.
“While there is no cause for concern about the water in New York City, we understand that you take your child’s safety seriously,” Farina told parents. “We share that commitment to safety with you.”