City and State Point Fingers When Screening Newark Students for Lead

Newark and the state are each saying the other is working to conduct lead testing for city students.

By Michael Hill

Water filters on pipes in some Newark public schools show the district has been battling elevated lead levels in the drinking water for some time. The dates on the filters are to show the last time the filters were replaced.

“The harm is that children and staff in these building are continuing to ingest lead contaminated water at levels that are unacceptable and unsafe,” said John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union.

Filter manufacturers recommend changing the filters once a year or more, depending on usage. The Newark Teachers Union took the pictures and says they are more evidence the district is hiding the truth and they want the superintendent gone.

“I think that the state should ask for his resignation immediately,” Abeigon said.

The district has not responded to the call for the superintendent’s resignation. But, in response to the NTU releasing an August 2014 district memo on protocols for flushing the system of lead, the district said, “Remedial actions are taken when elevated samples are detected — replacing fixtures, filters or pipes as needed.”

The school district originally told parents they could bring their children to the city Health Department for lead screening . Here’s an example of what happened when one parent followed that advice on Friday.

“I can say on that Friday when I went that I was told no, that they weren’t doing any lead testing,” said parent Viva White.

White says her now 7-year-old son had attended George Washington Carver that had a lead level at one faucet of 118 parts per billion, well above the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion. She left the Health Department wondering.

“I was just kind of shocked and I’m surprised, like why are they not doing any lead testing or what is the plan?” she asked.

Representatives of city and the state each tell NJTV News that the other is taking the lead on lead testing of children. The city says the state will potentially test 17,000 kids from the 30 schools with elevated lead levels. The state Health Department says Newark is developing a plan for testing.

Yesterday, the Senate and the Assembly voted to put $10 million in a fund for lead inspections, legislation the governor had pocket vetoed in January calling it spending outside the state budget.

“And this should not be an ongoing problem. Lead has been identified as a toxic chemical that affects the intelligence and development of children. That’s what it is. Those are the facts. We should not still be fighting this program,” said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer.

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