Following the discovery of high levels of lead in the water in Newark’s schools, New York City is unveiling a website where parents can track the results of lead testing in its schools.
Trying to reassure parents, the Education Department was sending letters home with students on Wednesday describing the measures the city has taken to ensure the water in schools is safe and including the address of the new website.
“New York City’s water is extraordinarily safe,” reads the letter, which is signed by the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This includes water in the N.Y.C. schools.”
The letter says that between 2008 and 2010, the city replaced all known lead service lines in city-owned buildings, including schools. The lines connect a building’s plumbing system to the water main, and are one of the most common causes of elevated lead levels in water.
In addition, since 2002, the city has tested the water in all school buildings built before 1986, when Congress banned the installation of lead pipes or fixtures providing water for human consumption. Of the 88,956 samples taken, only 1.13 percent had levels of lead that exceeded the guidelines put out by the federal Environmental Protection Agency on what is called the first draw — the first water to come out of the tap, the mayor’s office said.
In the city, all schools that had a reading with lead levels exceeding the guidelines were required to remove any equipment, like a water fountain, from which the water showed an elevated reading, and also to flush the school’s plumbing system weekly, the mayor’s office said.
The city also treats its water with orthophosphate, a food additive that creates a protective film on the inside of pipes that prevents lead from leaching into the water.