Education

Four water sources with high levels of lead being replaced, school officials said

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Four water sources in the city’s schools are being replaced or upgraded after testing positive for high levels of lead this June, according to district superintendent Aubrey Johnson.

One fountain has been removed, and another is being replaced, Johnson said, while the other two are having filtration systems added.

Officials will then re-test water samples from the three remaining sites to ensure the water sources are within acceptable limits, Johnson said, adding that the entire process should be completed within the month.

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Testing was conducted over a two-day period in June and encompassed 260 sources of drinking water in the New Brunswick public school’s buildings.

The four sites with unacceptable levels of lead were a kitchen sink in McKinley Community School, a bubbler in a classroom at Lincoln Elementary School and hallway water fountains in both Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and New Brunswick Middle School, according to the test results.

Those four sources were removed from service as soon as the results came in, Johnson wrote in a district-wide letter in July.

Lead is a poison that can cause short-term health problems and long-term illnesses, such as heart disease, according to public health authorities. It may enter drinking water supplies when pipes or fixtures corrode, especially in older buildings.

Federal regulations limit the legal presence of lead in water to 15 parts per billion. Each of the four sites tested in June registered above that number.

The McKinley site was double the legal limit at 32.8 parts per billion, while the Lincoln site was 477 parts per billion. The Woodrow Wilson fountain showed lead at 65.2 parts per billion, while the middle school’s water fountain was 186 parts per billion, according to the results.

The majority of the 260 water sources had lead levels below or near one part per billion, which is below the legal maximum, according to the results.

LEW Corporation, based in Mountainside, conducted the test on June 27 and 28. Samples were analyzed on July 10, according to district documents.

This is the second consecutive year that the school district conducted lead testing, although state law requires a test once every six years.

Amidst reports of a public health crisis of lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, school districts across the country began regularly testing their drinking water for lead.

During the 2016 round of testing, which look at 181 water sources, 14 faucets were found to be in need of remediation.

Most of the issues are due to decaying brass fixtures, according to Frank LoDolce, director of facility design and construction. Follow-up tests in March 2017 showed that those water sources came up as clean, LoDolce said.

Yet annual lead-testing should still be conducted, LoDolce added, since the lead status of a given source can change over time due to water pressure changes, use in other parts of the school or city and structural and chemical issues

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