Lead-tainted water flows at schools

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A new round of water tests have revealed an unwanted visitor to some public schools: lead in the water fountains.

Both The Bronx High School of Science and The David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy M.S./H.S. 141 had elevated levels of lead in its water, according to the city’s education department. Officials, however, said that while the lead levels need to be addressed, students had nothing to be concerned about.

“Parents can rest assured that water in schools is safe for students and staff to drink,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness said.

“There has never been a known case of lead poisoning due to drinking water in schools,” adding that any drinking or cooking water fixture with lead above acceptable levels are immediately taken offline and fixed.

Fixing, Holness added, could likely mean replacing fixtures when necessary as well as putting the school on a weekly flushing protocol to eliminate the lead, while conducting more tests to ensure those levels have dropped back to acceptable levels.

RKA principal Lori O’Mara said the lead alerts had minimal impact on her campus because the high lead levels did not impact drinking fountains there.

The news of elevated lead levels in water at the drinking fountains appeared to have little impact on students.

“I never really drank water from the school,” said Marc Reyes, a senior at the school. “I always bought bottled water, and if anything, they have the vending machine with water, so, I usually buy water from the vending machine.”

RKA junior Pray Torrence said he usually purchases a bottle of juice in the morning and avoids the school’s water. But not because of the lead.

“It’s been nasty from the start,” he said.

Even parents took news of the lead levels in stride. RKA parents association president Elizabeth Benders said her school took “all necessary precautionary steps to ensure the safety of our students.”

Other RKA parents supported O’Mara’s handling of the situation.

“Once I found out about the lead in the water, I was originally concerned since my son does drink from the water fountains at school,” Robin Hochroth said.

“I’m sure Ms. O’Mara is on top of it and would not put our children in harm’s way.”

Bronx Science principal Jean Donahue declined to comment, referring instead to the education department.

However, parent association co-presidents Betsy Newberry and Ellen Dubin said water fountains were lead was found were “rarely used.”

If lead levels are more than 15 parts per billion, a school must stop using that outlet and provide another means for securing drinking water, according to the law passed last year.

The law came after the city education department came under fire for how it handled its voluntary water testing, including some practices that could have tainted the results.

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