New concern over water safety in Newark schools after old filters found

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Carolina Leid has the story.

Concerns are growing about the safety of the water inside Newark schools.

Students in the early childhood program will begin to be tested for lead poisoning, after elevated lead levels were found in the water at 30 schools.

Meanwhile, the teachers union says filters that could stop lead from leaking into the water aren't being changed as promised.

In fact, they found filters at several schools that were several years old.

The elevated lead levels not only heightened concerns but criticism for the state-run district, as officials now attempt to navigate through a wave of problems that the teachers union says administrators have neglected for years, as evidenced by photos of the filters.

"I took those photos on Friday to demonstrate that this problem was greater than the district's 30 schools that they were contending," said teachers union president John Abiegon.

He says he snapped the photos of expired water filters inside schools just four days ago with some dates ranging as far back as 2012.

It's an alarming gap considering a school memo clearly states filters should be replaced after six months.

"As a parent I'm disgusted, it's absolutely disgusting that the people that you would entrust, and actually by law, the school district are your parents," said Abiegon.

In response to the allegations, the Newark school district issued a statement: "Leadership continues to focus on ensuring that all students and staff have access to clean, safe drinking water in the short term, while working to test, remediate, and solve the sort of infrastructural challenges that cause water quality issues in the long-term."

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says that as soon as the city was made aware of this issue, they acted. The schools have been under state operation for the past 20 years, and he says this is one of the reasons they need their schools back.

The State DEP is putting together a testing plan which will be finalized and released Wednesday, including testing of every faucet and fountain and every food preparation sink at all 67 schools.

Lead testing in the schools will begin sometime this week.

Newark Councilman John James confirms 17,000 students will be tested. A plan for testing still has to be approved by the mayor and health director.

In a statement, the New Jersey Department of Health said it "is lending its assistance and expertise to support the Newark Health Department as it leads the health response to this issue affecting the Newark community. The Newark Health Department, in collaboration with Newark schools, are developing a plan to test affected children."

The city of Newark said in a statement, "The State is taking the lead and is in charge of testing the students. The City is simply doing what it can to be helpful and assist. The number which Dr Hamdi stated - - 17000 - - is the number of children who may have potentially been exposed in the 30 schools impacted."

Last week, Newark public schools temporarily shut off all water fountains at 30 school buildings where elevated levels of lead were recorded. Bottled water and water coolers were brought in.

Alternative water supplies for drinking and food preparation have been delivered to all of the affected schools.

Water fountains have been shut off with signs posted in the bathrooms, warning students not to drink the water.

The state says parents should have no concerns about their children's water and food consumption at school. The DEP says drinking water alone is not typically associated with elevated blood lead levels.

Related Topics:
educationnew jersey newscontaminated waterdrinking waterNewark
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