East Ramapo School District addresses lead in drinking water, following outcry

Kristin Thorne Image
Thursday, December 28, 2023
Rockland school district addresses lead in drinking water
Kristin Thorne has more on the investigation.

RAMAPO, New York (WABC) -- A school district in Rockland County, which made national headlines last summer because its students have not been able to drink from a water fountain since 2016 due to lead contamination, said it is moving forward with lead remediation.

The East Ramapo School District superintendent told Eyewitness News that based on the current construction schedule, the new water fountains will be up and running by next school year, if not sooner.

Superintendent Clarence Ellis said in a statement, "The District has been working with our architects, engineers and consultants to address these issues on an ongoing basis."

Ellis said the school district has been providing all school buildings with a sufficient amount of bottled water dispensers and bottled water.

The New York State Department of Education said it is closely monitoring the district's progress.

Students in the school district have not been able to drink from a water fountain for the past seven years due to levels of lead in the drinking water beyond the recommended maximum amount.

Last July, the New York Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul urging the state to take over the school district because of the lead contamination.

They called it reminiscent of the environmental racism seen in Flint, Michigan as 93% of the East Ramapo School District's student body is Black or Hispanic.

Lead is particularly harmful to children; even low levels of exposure have been linked to learning disabilities, stunting of physical growth and damage to the nervous system.

Since the letter, the school district said it would replace water fountains in 13 school buildings.

The 7 On Your Side Investigates team looked at the most recent testing data in New York and New Jersey and found that 43% of schools in New York and 56% of schools in New Jersey had water outlets test beyond the Environmental Protection Agency's acceptable limit for lead.

If you are concerned about your child's exposure to lead, contact your doctor. They can order a blood test.


DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Dan Krauth, Kristin Thorne, and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW.

You can also contact Kristin Thorne directly

Facebook: KristinThorne.WABC

Twitter: @KristinThorne