In the summer of 2016, New York State passed a law requiring school districts to conduct testing of all potable water sources or outlets for lead contamination and to take responsive action. The legislation included all buildings owned or leased by a school. The action level for lead in school drinking water is 15 micrograms per liter (mcg/L) or parts per billion (ppb).
The Yorktown Central School District complied with the law and tested six buildings, inclusive of French Hill. Those buildings were Yorktown High School, Mildred E. Strang Middle School, and Crompond, Mohansic and Brookside elementary schools, and French Hill. Though French Hill is being rented out, thousands of children graduated there and young children still enter the building for childcare and other activities.
The results of the lead testing are on the school district’s website: yorktown.org. Also on the website are two letters from Dr. Napolitano dated Oct. 18, 2016, and Nov. 10, 2016, to explain the results of the lead testing.
In both letters, Dr. Napolitano wrote that no drinking fountains in the elementary schools and secondary schools were above the allowable limits (15 parts per billion).
I am sorry to report, but what Dr. Napolitano wrote was incorrect and also incomplete. There were five drinking fountains that exceeded the allowable limits for lead in water. According to the Technical Report posted on the district’s website, those five sites were one drinking fountain at Mildred E. Strang and four drinking fountains at French Hill.
To ensure that the school district was well aware of the excessive levels in the five drinking fountains, Joseph Sbarra, the school district’s environmental consultant, sent an email to the district listing the five locations that exceeded the 15 ppb “action level.”
I obtained Mr. Sbarra’s email under the Freedom of Information Act and posted it on United Taxpayers of Yorktown’s website: yorktownopengov.net. To read Mr. Sbarra’s email, just click on the link named Schools (on the left side). His communication will be the first document, just above the document named “PCB Contamination of Air Supply Ducts in Mohansic Elementary School in 2012.”
As a side note, the Yorktown Central School District found PCB-contaminated dust in air supply ducts at the Mohansic Elementary School back in 2012. Since the dust levels exceeded the health department’s action level, the district was required to remediate it. Did the school administration inform all of the parents, staff and teachers about the contamination? Under the Freedom of Information Act, I was unable to locate any record showing that the school district made this public knowledge. And it was only under the Freedom of Information Act that I even learned about the contamination. Why was the school board and administration so secretive and not forthcoming?
As far as the issue of lead in water, under New York State Regulation Subpart 67-4, posting on the school website or through social media does not count as written notification. Physical written notification must be distributed to all staff and persons in parental relation to the child, not just those that the school believes were exposed to a particular outlet.
Based on this information, I anticipate that the school district will post on its website and mail written documentation to all staff and parents an update about the accurate drinking fountain results at Mildred Strang and French Hill.
Since the district was required to test French Hill, please do not leave out those high lead results.
They owe it to the parents, taxpayers and community.
I hope I have been of help.