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More Lead Found in Connecticut School Drinking Water

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016)

    Three new water fountains at Mauro-Sheridan Magnet, New Horizons and James Hillhouse High were recently installed because the water flowing from the old ones were found to be riddled with lead.

    "It could have been the fixture itself or it could have been a water line that’s what I am trying to find out," said Paul Kowalski, environmental health program director for the city of New Haven Health Department.

    Testing of a water sample from a fountain at James Hillhouse High School came back at 53ppb, which is three times the maximum amount the EPA considers safe.

    "I don’t know how often it’s used and I don’t know how many people really drink out of it, but for safety sake we took it out of commission," Kowalski said.

    New Horizons and Mauro-Sheridan’s results had come in at 41ppb and 26ppb, respectively. While lower than the water at Hillhouse, it is still unsafe to drink.

    New Haven health officials found out about the water’s condition after they decided to test their schools water for lead this past March.

    "I knew I was going to be asked that question because of what happened in Flint brought lead poisoning and lead and water to the forefront," Kowalski said.

    These numbers aren’t nearly as bad as Flint’s but lead exposure can cause brain damage, lower intelligence and other issues in young children.

    Since 2011, 20 Connecticut schools were found to have lead-contaminated water. The number could be higher, but some parents might never know because only the 170 out of 1,100 Connecticut schools that use independent water systems are required by the state to check. 

    "The water supply that we have within the city of New Haven is basically pristine," Kowalkski said.

    We then asked him to explain how the three contaminated water fountains at the school could happen in "pristine" conditions.

    "I can’t at this time," Kowalski responded.

    New Haven schools are, like most of the others in Connecticut, not required to test. Kowalski said before this year’s voluntary testing, the water hadn’t been checked for lead since the schools were renovated years ago.

    "It’s been over the past 10 to 15 years," Kowalski said.

    He addded that when the city decided to do it this year, they faced hurdles from the state.

    "I had to wait to get the approval to run the samples," Kowalski said. 

    Connecticut Water Chief Lori Mathieu said if she is given a mandate, all schools would be tested in the state.

    "If legislation is created, if there is requirement out there for the Health Department to conduct that, we would stand ready to implement that," Mathieu said .

    Hartford isn’t required to test their school’s water either. After repeated requests by the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, city officials agreed to test some of their schools.

    "We’re definitely are putting a plan together so we can test all our schools," Pedro Zayas, communications director for Hartford Public Schools said.

    NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters were there in August when they tested the first, Capital Prep.

    They also tested MD Fox the next day at the request of NBC Connecticut. 

    "I think that schedule is in progress," said Zayas. "We have to coordinate with MDC."

     

    MDC reached out to us yesterday to say that they are not and have never been working with the city of Hartford to conduct their schools testing.  
    We followed up with Zayas for a response he said ” I should have said to coordinate a schedule of testing with the  Hartford Health Department.”

     

    MDC reached out to us yesterday to say that they are not and have never been working with the city of Hartford to conduct their schools testing. We followed up with Zayas for a response.

    ”I should have said to coordinate a schedule of testing with the Hartford Health Department,” Zayas said.

    At our request, Waterbury also agreed to test two schools: Gilmartin Elementary and Wallace Middle.

    In total, the four schools tested in Waterbury and Hartford came back with acceptable lead levels. But, that still leaves the water in more than 70 schools in those two cities untested.

    On Monday, Waterbury sent NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters a detailed schedule of when they are will test all schools and for some, it won’t be until 2017.