Facing pressure, more schools scramble to confront dangers of lead in water
But for the next five months, no one told the parents of Summit’s 250 students.
School systems throughout the country have wrestled with lead in water for decades, in part because of the intractable problem of lead-bearing fixtures and pipes in aging buildings.
In addition, the overwhelming majority of schools face no state or federal laws that require testing, and crimped budgets and understaffed districts mean water testing seldom rises to a top priority.
But in a growing number of places, parents have become increasingly exasperated by the lack of transparency and delayed notification that often has accompanied the problem.
“We were not informed at all,” said Jeffery Hawkins, who said he learned from his daughter that fountains at her Milwaukee public school had tested for elevated lead levels.
The superintendent stepped down after the release of a scathing report that detailed the district’s failure to fix problems, and months later, Portland is still providing bottled water at its 90 schools — at an annual cost of about $850,000.
“It’s definitely been a very challenging year.
“It is way past the time we deal with this issue.” New York has gone further, with a new law requiring schools statewide to test drinking water for lead.
That means a tap that tests safe one day — no detectable lead — might show alarming levels in the water if checked another day.
“I don’t think we can base a nation’s response to lead in school drinking water on a lottery game.