In the current academic year, 17 water sources at 12 D.C. public schools tested positive for elevated lead levels. And in recent weeks, the school system has come under fire for not communicating to parents when their children’s school tested positive for the elevated levels.
Now, the District says it is responding with more lead testing out of an “abundance of caution” and vows to be upfront about any elevated levels.
The Department of General Services (DGS), the city agency responsible for lead testing, announced that throughout May it will retest all water sources in D.C. Public Schools for elevated lead levels. This includes sinks and hoses, not just water fountains. It will also test water sources at city recreation centers before summer camp starts June 17.
“As test results are returned, we will remediate any issues, and we will publicly share the results,” City Administrator Rashad M. Young wrote in a letter.
High levels of lead are linked to brain damage and developmental problems, including impulsive behavior, poor language skills and trouble retaining new information. The Environmental Protection Agency calls for action when lead levels in schools are at or above 20 parts per billion (ppb) in a 250-milliliter bottle. The District’s threshold is a bit more conservative, at 15 ppb.
Last year, DGS discovered traces of lead in the water of Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan but did not relay this information to the school or parents. Instead, it shut off the water source. A water source tested positive for elevated lead levels again this year.
DGS has long posted the results of these lead tests online but never alerted parents to the results. D.C. Public Schools will now alert parents to the results, and when the blitz testing is complete, the school system will provide a detailed report.
If a water source tests positive for lead, the source is shut off, filters are installed, and the water is retested before anyone is allowed to use it again.
D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the council’s Education Committee, is scheduled to hold a city hearing in June on the testing of lead levels in D.C. public and charter schools.
For more information on the testing, D.C. Public Schools has a posting of Frequently Asked Questions.