NEW YORK – The Environmental Protection Agency has tipped its cap to New Jersey and three of its school districts for reducing the amount of lead in drinking water at elementary schools.
EPA today said that the Department of Environmental Protection and three districts – Union City, Atlantic City and Weehawken – have lowered levels of lead in drinking water to below EPA-recommended levels.
Lead is a toxic metal that can harm a child’s learning ability severely, and lead to a range of ill health issues, the EPA stated.
“An unhealthy school environment is a barrier to learning,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck in a release. “With so many children exposed to lead-based paint in their homes, it is especially important to reduce any additional lead that could enter their growing bodies through drinking water.”
In June 2010, EPA tested drinking water outlets for lead at nine Union City schools and the day care facility in Union City High School. Of the 166 outlets tested, 17 were found to be dispensing water that contained lead above EPA-recommended levels.
EPA said that the district turned off the outlets and took action, including the replacement and installation of filters in the outlets and the cleaning of aerators.
The outlets remained out of service pending re-testing by DEP in August 2010 and February 2011. The February results found lead levels above EPA-recommended levels at two outlets, EPA said.
The Union City School District performed additional remediation this past summer, and a final round of testing in August found that both had been brought under EPA-recommended levels for lead.
In June 2010, EPA also tested drinking water outlets for lead in all three schools in the Weehawken school district. Of the 34 outlets tested, results showed three outlets dispensing water that contained lead above EPA-recommended levels.
One outlet was permanently turned off and two received new fixtures. Following remediation, the two outlets were re-tested and results indicated that both had been brought under EPA-recommended levels for lead.
In June 2011, EPA tested drinking water outlets for lead at nine Atlantic City schools and the day care facility at Atlantic City High School. Of the 145 outlets tested, eight were found to be dispensing water that contained lead above EPA-recommended levels.
The eight outlets were immediately turned off, with seven permanently disconnected. For the remaining outlet, a kitchen sink at Chelsea Heights School, the school district ran a brand new line to the sink from another part of the school, EPA said.
Retest sample results in September 2011 indicated lead levels from this sink outlet to be below EPA’s recommended levels. The outlet has since been put back into use, EPA said.
The Union City and Atlantic City school districts plan to engage in a long-term lead monitoring program that will incorporate schools in the districts that have not yet been tested for lead in drinking water, according to EPA.