Friday, May 5, 2017

Bronx Health REACH Nutrition and Fitness for Schools Workgroup Hosts Forum on Lead in School Water

On April 24th, more than forty teachers, parents, staff from community-based organizations and students came to together to learn about the status of lead contamination in school water.  A teacher from High Bridge Green Middle School brought one of her classes that is learning about lead contamination and how it is affecting their school. Speakers included Christine Appah, Senior Staff Attorney of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and Dr. Michael Weinstein, a professor at NYU Department of Population Health. Representatives from the Department of Health and the Department of Education were also there to answer questions from the audience during a Q & A session. Audience members had the opportunity to share their most pressing concerns about the health impact of lead contamination on the school community and the process for testing and remediation.

During their discussion, the speakers summarized the issue of lead contamination in New York City schools and the potential health concerns. Christine Appah explained that the New York State Safe Drinking Water Law passed in Fall 2016, ensures all schools follow the same testing protocol and timeline. Dr. Weitzman pointed out that “while any level of lead in the water is considered bad from a public health perspective, the level of lead in the water is not at a level comparable to the levels reported in Flint, Michigan."

The Department of Education’s Operations Department provided details on the robust protocol for testing and remediation that they manage in cooperation with Office of Facilities/DOE, NYC School Construction Authority, consultants from the Department of Health, and an external laboratory. While there is no set timeline for remediation, they don’t believe it would take more than a year. The Healthy Homes/Department of Health representative advised the audience that a good practical step to take to lower lead consumption similar to the advice they give to people for water consumption at home is to let the tap water/water fountain run for one minute before using it, especially if it hadn't been run for a few hours. An important fact that was stressed is that boiling water does not get rid of lead.

Workgroup members and the audience stressed the importance of a larger community wide communications campaign on the lead testing and remediation process for schools.

For more information on lead contamination in water,  read the Department of Health’s handout.

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