Lead traces found in 5 Port schools

Elevated lead levels that exceed EPA standards  were found in five schools in the Port Washington School District, but officials said no students or staff members were exposed to high levels of lead. 

“The areas that exceeded standards were not in fountains used by students or staff,” Port Washington School District Superintendent Kathleen Mooney said in a statement on Monday. 

Lead testing done by J.C. Broderick & Associates Inc. showed that one or two sinks or fountains in rooms at South Salem Elementary School, Sousa Elementary School, Guggenheim Elementary School and Paul D. Schreiber High School exceeded the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion.

In a letter sent to parents, guardians and staff on May 5, Mooney said elevated lead levels were also found at Daly Elementary School in some areas, including three fountains attached to sinks that are not used by students or staff members, and one hallway water fountain similarly unused.

“These locations are not being used for drinking water,” Mooney said. “The facilities office has prepared work orders to either have the unused fountains removed or the water source disconnected. The environmental consultants retained by the district have informed us that students have not been exposed to high levels of lead. Nonetheless, lead in water has been the subject of a great deal of

media attention. To the extent that some families are concerned about lead in water in their own homes, they may decide on their own accord to do lead testing to put their minds at ease.”

As a result, the district turned off the existing fountain and sinks with elevated lead levels at Daly and replaced the hallway fountain, Mooney said. 

According to Mooney, after lead levels were found at Daly the school district hired J.C. Broderick & Associates, which has expertise in environmental services and industrial hygiene, to do testing at all schools  for lead in the drinking water. The district  asked that the testing begin with the oldest schools.

Mooney said the “testing was done proactively out of an abundance of caution.”

“We share this information with you to assure you that student and staff health and safety is always our primary focus,” Mooney said in the May 5 statement. “We recognize the need to openly communicate about issues such as this to alleviate any concerns. As the findings of the remaining water tests become available, we will continue to share those results with you.”

Weber Middle School and Manorhaven Elementary had no fountains or sinks with lead levels exceeding 20 parts per billion, officials said. 

Paul Granger, superintendent of the Port Washington Water District, said it is not uncommon for older buildings to have traces of lead.

“When you deal with facilities, such as schools with older fixtures, any older plumbing fixtures have that potential for lead,” he said. “If you have a drinking water fountain that contains brass and the water sits there for a long time that’s when you have a higher chance of there being lead.”

Water district officials also told residents that there has been no lead contamination in their water supply for over 30 years and that the water district, as well as all Long Island water providers test and treat for lead content.

According to a Newsday report, other districts in Long Island where tests showed an elevated level of lead include; Bayport-Blue Point; Carle Place; Commack; East Rockaway; Elwood; Jericho; Locust Valley; Malverne; North Bellmore; Northport-East Northport; Oceanside; Plainview-Old Bethpage; Riverhead; Syosset; Valley Stream 13; Valley Stream 24; Valley Stream 30; Valley Stream Central; Wantagh and Westbury.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no known safe blood lead level. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health. Exposure  increases  the risks of damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems. Risk varies depending on the individual, the circumstances and the amount of water consumed.

“When you say lead it’s always concerning,” Granger said. “They [the Port Washington School District] hired a firm to do the testing and they quickly addressed the problem. I think they took the most appropriate action.”

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Sarah Minkewicz

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