Initials results from new testing for lead in New York City school water show potentially toxic contaminationat dozens of schools. However, city officials insist that all unsafe water is taken off-line.
As a response to the water crises in Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, the city announced in December that it wouldtest and continue testing lead levels in all city schools. Since the city began releasing data on lead levels in city school’s drinking water in early March, parents have been receiving letters about tests results for their specific schools.
The Department of Education has also created a portal on its website to allow parents to search for lead testing results atspecific schools.
Yet the letters and the website fail to show how each school or neighborhood compares to others in the city nor do they provide updates on the progress of the testing effort.
To address those shortcomings, public radio channel WNYC created a map offering parents a comprehensive view of water safety in schools across the city.
The interactive and continually updated map aims to provide the most recent test results of every school’s water fountain, or “bubblers” as they’re sometimes called.
The latest round of testing indicated that nine times as many water fountains showed “action level” amounts of lead (15 parts per billion) compared to last year, WNYC reported.
The purple dots on the map correspond to schools where at least one water fountain was tested. The bigger the dot, the more water sources tested at the school.
The darker the dot, the more severe the lead levels.
Officials from the DOE and Department of Mental Health and Hygiene have argued that some results were unreliable because the water tested had been sitting in the pipes for 18 hour or more, and that the lead levels are substantially lower after a few minutes of running the water.
Experts say there is no safe level of lead. Any sample showing 400 ppm of lead could be toxic from just one drink, WNYC reported.
The map shows that about 50 schools tested at a potentially toxic level. About two dozen tested at more than 1,000 ppm.
The city is adamant that students are not being poisoned.
"Water in New York City schools is safe for students and staff to drink,” the DOE told WNYC. “As part of our aggressive remediation protocol, any cooking or drinking water fixture with results above 15ppb is immediately taken offline.
"Citywide testing is ongoing with comprehensive testing and remediation taking place across the city. It’s premature to draw any conclusions at this point."