Eight faucets in PS/IS 217, at 645 Main Street, were removed after a January 10 inspection revealed lead concentrations in water samples high enough to require City action. Island parents were notified via a letter from Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth A. Rose on January 25. The letter said 100 faucets within the school had been tested for the metal.
Three of the contaminated faucets were located in the weight room. One faucet in the kitchen was removed, as well as one in the library, a locker room, a dressing room, and one classroom. No drinking fountains within the school were affected.
PTA President Erin Olavesen said, “The health and well being of our children is the PTA’s paramount concern. The PTA is closely monitoring the situation and we’ll work hard to ensure that all steps are being taken to make our water completely safe.”
The EPA’s “action level” threshold is set at 15 parts per billion (ppb). According to the letter sent home, the “on again/off again” nature of water use at most schools can raise lead levels in drinking water, as water often remains in pipes overnight, over a weekend, and a school vacation, increasing exposure.
In a previous letter, Rose informed parents that every water source used for drinking or preparing food was tested. According to protocol, the ones that tested positive were taken out of service.
Parent Irena Skuletic said, “I was not too concerned, I just figured it’s a part of the protocol. The important thing is that they’re testing, and that the faucets that tested positive for lead won’t be used until fixed.”
According to the Department of Education (DOE) website, “This fall, the State issued new regulations on testing water for lead in schools. To ensure that we continue to exceed requirements, the DOE, in partnership with the State Department of Health and the NYC[?], has updated its protocol for lead testing in drinking water in school buildings.”
As to their methods, Rose explained, “First and foremost, New York City water is safe and families and staff should rest assured that our drinking water is of the highest quality in the world. The water in every NYC public school was tested for lead in 2016 and the vast majority of test results were not elevated. Those outlets that exceeded the action level for lead were immediately taken out of service, remediated, and not placed back into service until the outlet re-tested below the action level. This work was done in close partnership with City and State agencies, using a protocol developed in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.”
PS/IS 217 was not the only school to test positive for lead. Several other schools throughout the City also received positive results. 118 water samples were tested at McKinley Junior High School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and roughly 12 percent came back with lead levels higher than 15 ppb. Another Island parent said, “My son goes to PS11 in Chelsea and we got a letter like that too,” adding, “In general I trust that New York City water is among the best and safest.”