Elevated Lead Levels Found in Newark Schools’ Drinking Water – New York Times

NEWARK — Elevated levels of lead caused officials in New Jersey’s largest school district on Wednesday to shut off water fountains at 30 school buildings until more tests could be conducted, officials said.

The district, Newark Public Schools, told the State Department of Environmental Protection on Monday that annual testing found concentrations ranging from undetected to above the department’s action level for lead, which is 15 parts per billion. That level requires additional testing, monitoring and remediation.

The department, which requested test results from previous years to perform a complete analysis, said in a statement that no building had more than four samples above the action level.

The department also said lead had not been found in the city’s water supply. “In the vast majority of cases where lead is found in drinking water, it enters through the water delivery system itself when it leaches from either lead pipes, household fixtures containing lead or lead solder,” the department said.

Notices have been posted and bottled water and water coolers delivered to the buildings.

Lead in drinking water has drawn increased attention recently because of the crisis in Flint, Mich., which began after the city switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure in 2014. Lead from aging pipes leached into the drinking water because it was not treated with anticorrosion chemicals.



At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Ras J. Baraka of Newark said water in the city was safe and drinkable.

Lead in school water is a longstanding issue in the United States and has been a focus of federal and local regulators.

“I understand in the Flint environment that any sign of elevation is going to make everyone go haywire, but here, the water system in Newark is still safe, it’s still drinkable,” the city’s mayor, Ras J. Baraka, said at a news conference. Mayor Baraka also asked for cases of water to be donated to the schools.

Parents should have no concerns about their children’s water and food consumption at school, the environmental department said, because the act of drinking water is usually not associated with elevated levels of lead in the blood on its own. “It is the buildup of lead from all sources over time that determines whether harmful health effects will occur,” the agency said.

Concerned parents can have their children tested for lead at Newark’s Department of Health and Community Wellness.

The state chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, called for more testing and pipe replacement.

“New Jersey cities have old, outdated pipes in our streets and homes, which can mean even higher levels of lead in our water,” Jeff Tittel, the group’s director, said. “Many of our water systems go back to the Victorian era, and even homes built in the ’30s and ’40s have pipes made with lead solder.”

The Newark school system has 35,054 students in 66 schools.

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