Multiple schools across the United States have had to shut off their drinking water due to lead being found in the water. Schools are susceptible to lead contamination in the water due to old pipes. One expert believes that this is just “the tip of the iceberg.” Yanna Lambrinidou is a member of the Virginia Tech team that discovered the water problem currently facing the town of Flint, Michigan. She commented on how many schools have a lead water problem.
“There’s no way to know. I think it’s only reasonable to assume that these cases are only the tip of the iceberg.”
— Mark Miller (@MarkMillerKOMO) March 3, 2016
In Binghamton, New York, a letter was sent home to parents in order to tell them about the water problem. The letter can be found here. Seven water sources in the Binghamton school district tested positive for lead. The testing was done years earlier but was only now being addressed. Michael Sharp was one of the parents who received the school district’s letter. Sharp commented about how shocked he was when he read what the letter had said.
“I was surprised, because it seemed like a big deal to have lead in the water. The part that was more upsetting was that they had the results for more than three years and nothing had been done about it.”
The crisis in Flint has been putting people on alert in regard to the water supply. Due to what is happening in Flint, school districts have their senses heightened about lead and as they are testing for the heavy metal they are discovering that the levels are much higher than the allowable limits.
An hour away from Binghamton, Ithaca’s school superintendent stated that all drinking water should be turned off in the Ithaca schools since two of those schools tested positive for high levels of lead. Some of the Ithaca schools have not tested their water for up to 11 years. Even in those older tests, lead was found in some water fountains. Senator Chuck Schumer is now asking for the Environmental Protection Agency to open an investigation.
Schools in New York are not alone in dealing with this crisis. Schools in Detroit, Idaho, California, Mississippi, and New Jersey have all had schools that tested high for lead in the water supply. Lambrinidou is not surprised by what is happening. She says that Ithica is “a very typical example of a school that found problems a long time ago and didn’t notify the community.” Due to what has happened in Flint, she stated, “We’re going to be seeing probably more school communities testing because of parental concerns.”
— WSJ Greater New York (@WSJNY) March 10, 2016
According to rules established by the Environmental Protection Agency, schools that get their water from a public water supply are not required to do their own testing for lead. The water treatment plants that deal with public water is required to do the testing. A 2004 law that would have required all schools to test for lead yearly, failed to pass.
Schools face a challenge that is not typical with that of other places that have drinking water. The challenges come due to the fact that many times during the year the water stays stagnant due to the schools being empty. With the water not moving, it is free to absorb lead. This explanation does not excuse the schools, though. They have a responsibility to keep the children safe and drinking water with lead in it does not keep them safe.
[Image Via AP Photo/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise, Bill Hughes, file]