MAPLEWOOD AND SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The following letter was sent via email to the South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD) community on Thursday, July 20, from John J. Ramos, Sr., SOMSD Superintendent.

Dear SOMSD Community,

As you may be aware, an initial report indicated elevated levels of lead in nine of 223 of the district’s water sources. Upon receipt of the results, each of the nine water sources were taken out of service and the district engaged in a second round of testing to verify the initial results. In the second round of testing on the nine water sources, only two were found to be above safety guidelines. 

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We realize that these results are confusing. The BOE and District Administration continues to have more questions than concrete answers, especially around the variance in the testing results, even within a single water source such as the Seth Boyden water fountain. According to our lead testing company, Lew Corp., lead results can and do vary, depending on a number of often changing factors, including water velocity, temperature and the amount of time water is in contact with the building’s plumbing. Additionally, the routes that water flows through the plumbing system of the building and the plumbing materials that the water will come into contact with will vary depending on the frequency and duration of the use of the various water fountains and faucets throughout the school. 

Given the lack of concrete details, the following action steps are being taken by the District:

  1. This summer, we are replacing all of the water fountains and/or faucets which had elevated lead levels in the initial testing.  We are also installing filtration systems on all of our drinking fountains and food preparation sinks, as a preventative measure.  We are undertaking these measures to provide additional safety of our drinking water for students and staff.
  2. While our health experts continue to remind the public that exposure to lead paint and other environmental stimulants are the greatest dangers for lead poisoning, we know that parents remain concerned that their child(ren) may have been exposed to lead.  The District has not received clearance to directly offer screening for students but we have been working diligently with the South Orange and Maplewood Departments of Health and the office of State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey to offer the following information:
  3. The recommended first step is to consult with your primary care physician or pediatrician.
  4. In the event your own physician is not available, lead testing and follow up can be provided by Dr. Cantey, 312 South Orange Avenue, South Orange. Dr. Cantey accepts Medicaid/NJ Family Care Plans. For an appointment please call 973-532-7898.
  5. For students with limited or no health insurance, we have secured lead testing and follow up through Zufall, a federal qualified health center which is located at 95 Northfield Ave., West Orange. For an appointment call 973-325-2266.

If you have additional questions regarding lead screening please contact:

  • Maplewood Health Department 973-762-8120 ext. 4400 or
  • South Orange Health Department 973-378-7715 ext. 2020.

Please note that lead screening is optional as a precautionary measure. Students must be accompanied by an adult/guardian who has the authority to provide consent for lead screening.

A recap of the SOMSD approach to lead testing in water sources and results is below:

  • Spring 2016 – Voluntary testing of all water sources – all were below the EPA’s “Lead Action Level”
  • Spring 2017 – State-mandated testing of all water sources – nine out of 223 water sources were above the EPA’s current “Lead Action Level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb).  All nine water sources were taken (and remain) out of service.
  • June 2017 – Retesting of the nine water sources with elevated levels in May, two were still above the EPA’s “Lead Action Level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb).
    • Room 3 at South Mountain  18.9 ppb
    • Room 122 at Tuscan at tested at 27.9 ppb
    • The retest of the Seth Boyden water fountain (which had the highest level in the Spring) was less than 1 ppb, well below the Action Level.
    • Notwithstanding the retest results, all nine originally identified water sources remain out of service at this time.

Note:  Detailed water testing results and additional information about lead are on the District website, www.somsd.k12.nj.us.

The South Orange & Maplewood School district is committed to protecting our students, teachers, and staff.  We are grateful to the Maplewood and South Orange Health Departments, town officials, local health care providers and local experts in lead contamination for their assistance and support.

For any additional questions or thoughts, please let us know via Let’s Talk.

Sincerely,

John J. Ramos, Sr., Ed.D.

Superintendent

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