Some Jersey City Schools' Water Fountains Contaminated With Lead

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Parents in Jersey City are concerned after tests found elevated lead levels in water fountains and faucets at their children's schools. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

    Parents in Jersey City are concerned after tests found elevated lead levels in water fountains and faucets at their children's schools. 

    Between October 2012 and January 2013, 978 water outlets in Jersey City schools were tested for lead, including sites that had been closed since the first survey was done in 2010. Fourteen percent of those fountains and faucets -- about 140 -- contained lead contamination above federal environmental testing standards.

    The Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking action when lead levels in drinking water exceed 15 parts per billion. At the Zero Tolerance Program of the Bright Street Academy, they found levels of 12,800 parts per billion. At PS 5, there were levels of 7,500 parts per billion. And at PS 25, there were levels of 4,600 parts per billion.  

    But it's been a known problem, as concerned parent Ellen Simon discovered when she requested a copy of the study commissioned by the school district. 

    "When I talked to a scientific specialist in this and he was shocked, then I realized our district really had a problem," she said. 

    "In one drinking fountain, it was two and a half times as high as toxic waste," she said.

    The Board of Education said it has gone to the most troublesome schools and taken the problem water fountains out of commission. But parents still want to know where the contamination is coming from and when it will be fixed.

    "They should get someone in there to take a look," said father Brian Lara. "Lead's always been a big issue." 

    "My kid gets juice boxes. He doesn't drink any of the water here," he said. 

    Meanwhile, some parents say they will continue to get their children's blood tested for lead levels until they know for certain the source has been identified and corrected. 

    "It's not even that they haven't fixed the problem or found the source," said Simon. "It's that they still don't know the full scope of the problem and they've known about it for seven years." 

    In a statement, the Jersey City school district said it has provided water coolers at locations where the fountains have been turned off and it is replacing some of the pipes, sinks and fixtures. Officials hope to get all the water sources tested later this year.