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City To Add Lead Water Test Results to Its Day Care Directory Site

By  Leslie Albrecht and Amy Zimmer | June 23, 2016 5:44pm 

 A water fountain at a Brooklyn school.
A water fountain at a Brooklyn school.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

MANHATTAN — Parents will soon be able to see lead water test results for their child’s daycare or preschool on the city’s Child Care Connect website, a directory of licensed programs that also includes information regarding violations and teacher turnover rates.

The Health Department will add information about lead tests in July, officials announced Thursday. The move comes on the heels of a proposal earlier this month to the Board of Health to require childcare operators test for lead in water every 5 years, as the city’s public schools require.

The present rules for day cares only mandate a one-time test.

“The city’s tap water is of the highest quality, and not a source of lead poisoning, but we want every parent to be assured that our child care centers have tested for lead levels in water,” Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement. “The department requested that the Board of Health approve a provision that requires a lead in water test 30 days after a new permit is issued and every five years for existing programs. We anticipate the Board to approve this provision in September 2016.”

The move comes amid recent reports of elevated lead levels in drinking water from Flint and Newark to the upstate town of Hoosick Falls, which prompted Albany lawmakers to pass a last-minute deal at the end of last week’s legislative session to include a mandate for lead testing at all schools across the state.

It also follows the city’s Department of Education, which in March launched a new portal for parents to search for lead water tests results in public schools.

The DOE site also includes results for any pre-K centers that provide free Universal pre-K programs for the city’s 4-year-olds. (Information for these centers will also be found on Child Care Connect.)

Many environmental advocates heralded the DOE's move to post results, but some parents felt the information was insufficient, since it didn't include how much lead was found in elevated samples or whether the elevated samples were found in first draws, taken after water was resting in faucet pipes for hours or days, or second draws, which are generally considered more serious.

Water is not a source of lead poisoning in New York City, city officials said, adding that no child care center has ever been linked with a case of lead poisoning. Officials stressed that the city's water itself meets or exceeds all federal and state standards and that the city removed all known lead service lines to schools and city buildings. No such lines have been found in a city-permitted child care center.

However, due to older internal plumbing and fixtures, lead test results may still be elevated.

When that occurs, those sites must implement corrective measures to reduce lead levels, including a protocol, which includes weekly flushing of pipes on Monday mornings or after school vacations since these are the times at which water has been sitting for extended periods. Flushing removes any built-up lead in stagnant water.

The Health Department’s protocol, which is based on EPA guidance, also includes fixture replacement when merited.

At Windsor Terrace’s Little Brooklyn Pre-K Center at Bishop Ford — the largest DOE-run pre-K center with more than 350 students — there were two elevated samples out of 88 taken in March. One elevated sample was on the first draw and the other was the second draw, raising red flags.

All fixtures, including piping to the wall, was immediately removed and were being replaced and re-tested, DOE officials said.

Laura Scott, who heads Bishop Ford, said in a letter to parents that at K280, the two samples with elevated levels of lead were from a science room that was not in use.

Scott, who is also principal of the nearby P.S. 10, said that school had one elevated level found in a sample from a newly installed sink, which was quickly disabled.

There is no safe level of lead in water, the American American Academy of Pediatrics recently said. Children's risk of lead exposure increases as soon as they begin crawling and teething. Lead can affect IQ as well as behavior, experts said.