Lead levels have been elevated in Newark schools since at least 2012, officials announced Wednesday. The announcement comes after the revelation earlier this month that water in 30 of the district’s schools tested as high as 35 times above the federal action limit for lead.
Out of 2,067 water quality samples collected from taps at Newark school buildings between 2012 and 2015, about 12 percent reported being above the Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” of 15 parts per billion, the district announced. About 10 percent of the taps tested in 2015 showed elevated levels, officials said.
Though officials said they will not release the specific levels for the past three school years until Thursday morning, those “results are generally consistent with this last round of testing,” which recorded levels ranging from 16 to 558 ppb, the school said.
In response to allegations by the Newark teachers union last week that the district knew about the lead levels for more than 10 years, the district said it is in the process of obtaining testing results dating back to 2004.
“Documentary evidence suggests that schools have been tested and remedial actions undertaken” since 2004, it said.
Over the past several weeks, the teachers union has released internal memos and dated photos suggesting that the district knew about elevated lead levels, and that remediation filters were not being properly maintained.
In a statement, Superintendent Chris Cerf called the photos “unauthenticated” and said that “the dates on the filter housing do not necessarily correspond to the dates of the filter replacement.”
Cerf said he learned of the elevated levels last Monday, and coordinated with the state Department of Environmental Protection to conduct additional testing, and alert the public to the issue.
Crazy thought, but maybe the EPA folks should be held responsible in Newark, as well as Flint.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will tell a congressional committee Thursday that “systemic failures” at the state’s environmental protection agency led to the poisoning of Flint’s water supply.
Prepared testimony released Wednesday afternoon shows that Snyder will repeat his message that “a failure of government at all levels” resulted in the catastrophe. He also will insist that a water specialist at the federal Environmental Protection Agency was “silenced” when he tried to warn about the lead contamination in February 2015.
“I do want to thank Miguel Del Toral, a water specialist at the EPA, who spoke up early about the crisis,” Snyder says in testimony prepared for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Tragically, his superiors at the EPA told local leaders in Flint to ignore his call for action.”
Susan Hedman, former head of the EPA’s Midwest region, repeatedly denied muzzling or retaliating against the scientist when she testified before the same panel Tuesday. On Thursday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will join Snyder for what is expected to be often fierce questioning from lawmakers.
Of course when McCarthy faces “fierce questioning” Congress will be accused of picking on a poor, defenseless woman.