More must be done to protect children and school staff from lead

A lead-in-water testing program is now underway in Philadelphia’s 218 District schools.

On Oct. 7, when the School District provided results and information from the lead testing completed so far, we saw that in about 50 drinking water outlets in 10 of the 22 schools for which data was available, lead levels above the current “Action Level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) were found. In fact, 45 percent of results exceeding the Action Level did so by two to 18 times.

Many of the thousands of drinking water outlets in our schools are acknowledged to be in substandard condition. The current round of testing for lead in school drinking water was undertaken because concerns that came to light in Flint, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and other places raised questions about what was happening in Philadelphia and because Philadelphia City Council members held public hearings in March to look into the lead situation.

District representatives testified at those March hearings, and they made clear that they believed our school drinking water to be safe based on a round of testing conducted many years earlier. They also testified that they considered the previously in-place 20 ppb Action Level for lead in school drinking water still to be sufficiently protective of public health.

The District reported on the testing of about 30,000 drinking-water outlets between 1999 and 2010, concluding that all drinking water outlets were acceptably safe from lead and that additional testing was unnecessary. As we now know, that has turned out not to be the case. In fact, we believe that a detailed analysis of the information from that testing will show thousands of samples that were above the current Action Level of 15 ppb and for which no actions have been taken. This is an extremely concerning situation, one that should be immediately remedied by analyzing the 1999-2010 data now and removing from service all the outlets that were measured at levels above 15 ppb and that were not removed from use at the time.

From: More must be done to protect children and school staff from lead
By: Jerry Roseman

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