EXCLUSIVE: Squadron, Downtown pols demand data on lead in Lower Manhattan schools

Squadron letterFollowing a report in Downtown Express that eight out of 10 public schools in Lower Manhattan have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead in their water, state Senator Daniel Squadron has rallied Downtown elected officials to demand full transparency about the problem from the Department of Education.

Squadron, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Assemblymembers Yuh-Line Niou and Deborah Glick, and Councilmember Margaret Chin all signed onto a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina demanding full disclosure of specific results for all affected schools.

The DOE has listed on its website which schools citywide have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead, but the specific results have not been made public, except in letters sent home with students at affected schools, which give only the readings for their school.

“The letters state that ‘complete test results are posted on the DOE website,’ but, as of today, complete results for any of the schools tested in Lower Manhattan are not posted on the DOE website,” the pols’ letter to Farina reads. “The letters also fail to outline specific remediation plans.”

The recent test results come in the wake of new testing protocols implemented by the DOE which require faucets and water fountains to remain inactive for eight hours before testing. This more sensitive standard led to revelations that water in many schools throughout the city contained lead at levels considered high enough — 15 parts per billion or more — to warrant immediate action by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But lead levels varied widely between schools, and even between different sources in the same school. At some affected schools, the lead levels were only slightly higher than the EPA’s “action level,” but at 26 Broadway, for example, home to the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School and Richard R. Green High School of Teaching, lead was found at one kitchen faucet at 1,900-parts-per billion — more than 70 times the average amount found in homes at Flint Michigan.

“That is very, very high,” said Dr. Judith Zelikoff, a toxicologist and professor at the Department of Environmental Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center.

Because the results vary so widely, Squadron and other elected officials argue that simply making public which schools exceeded the action level does not provide enough information to parents, the public, and policymakers to fully understand and address the situation.

Squadron and the other Downtown electeds are asking the DOE to inform all elected officials and community boards about the full testing results for all schools in their purview, post full details of test results on each schools’ website along with specific remediation plans for each affected fixture, make all future test results publicly available, and meet with any PTAs that request an informational meeting.

“We understand that this is a sensitive subject,” the letter reads. “As such, the DOE should be fully transparent with all available information and communicate with all affected stakeholders.”

Read the full letter here:

Downtown Lead letter

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