The Department of Environmental Protection has advised the Newark Public Schools system to temporarily utilize alternate water sources in 30 district school buildings after recent testing found elevated levels of lead at various water taps.
The Newark Public Schools system acted immediately on the recommendation and this morning began notifying school officials, parents and students of the results. In close coordination with the State and with assistance from Essex County, the District has also identified and delivered alternate supplies of water for drinking and food preparation as classes continue.
Parents should have no concerns about students’ water and food consumption at the school while the situation is addressed.
The DEP and the State Department of Health are working in partnership with the district in its efforts to resolve the issue. This includes a plan for immediate, coordinated sampling of all points of entry and taps for all public schools in the district, including charters.
The Newark Public Schools systems has temporarily shut off all drinking water fountains at the schools where elevated levels of lead were recorded. This will remain the case until further tests can be conducted. It is also posting notices in restroom facilities to not drink water from the faucets. Replacement drinking water, from water coolers and bottled water, is available at all impacted schools.
On Monday, March 7, DEP was notified by Newark Public Schools of the results of recent annual testing. A total of 30 school buildings recorded levels ranging from non-detect to above EPA’s action level for lead, which is 15 parts per billion. The action level represents the threshold requiring additional testing, monitoring and remediation.
Of the approximate 300 samples taken in the 30 school buildings, 59 were above the action levels of parts per billion. No building had more than four samples above the action level.
DEP has requested past test results from previous years from the school district to be able to do a complete analysis of the full data set. No building had more than four samples above the action level.
DEP has confirmed that lead has not been found within the Newark Water Department’s source water. In the vast majority of cases where lead is found in drinking water, it enters through the water delivery system itself when it leaches from either lead pipes, household fixtures containing lead, or lead solder.
Drinking water alone is not typically associated with elevated blood lead levels. It is the buildup of lead from all sources over time that determines whether harmful health effects will occur.
Children can be given a free blood test to measure the level of lead in their blood. If parents are concerned, they can have their children tested for lead at the Newark Health Department.
A New Jersey Department of Health fact sheet on lead in drinking water is available at http://www.nj.gov/health/ceohs/documents/dw_lead_factsheet.pdf.
For more information on lead in water, visit http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/pdf/lead-water-faq.pdf.
For information on New Jersey’s water quality testing program visit the DEP’s Division of Water Supply and Geoscience page at http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply.
The results of the Newark schools' lead testing can be found on the right site of this page under what’s new. The direct link to the results is www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/pdf/newark-schools-lead-results-2015-16.pdf.