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Elevated Levels of Lead Found in NEST+m School Water, DOE Says

By Allegra Hobbs | February 3, 2017 2:20pm | Updated on February 6, 2017 8:45am
 New Explorations Into Science, Technology and Math (NEST+m), located at 111 Columbia St.
New Explorations Into Science, Technology and Math (NEST+m), located at 111 Columbia St.
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Facebook/NEST+m Parent Teachers Association

LOWER EAST SIDE — Elevated levels of lead were found in water used for drinking and cooking at a school for gifted and talented students, according to the city's Department of Education, requiring several faucets to be shut off until the levels of the hazardous metal are lowered.

Officials discovered the heightened lead levels in seven of the 114 water sources tested at the New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math School, known as NEST+m, an elite "Gifted and Talented" school at 111 Columbia St. serving kids aged kindergarten through high school.

The contaminated water sources tested far above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "action level" of 15 micrograms per liter, according to the New York Daily News, which first reported the news — a water faucet in a boys' dressing room at the school yielded 1,140 micrograms per liter, according to the report.

All impacted fixtures will be out of service until they are remediated and the lead levels in the water decline, according to the DOE. The custodial staff at the school will also flush the faucets at the start of each week to eliminate stagnant water sitting in pipes over the weekend.

The education department discovered the lead levels while retesting all city school buildings this winter as part of a protocol to ensure water safety, according to the DOE.

The elevated lead levels came as a shock to parents, who were notified by the school in January — some saw the tainted sources as threats to their children's health.

"I think it's horrible, because they drink water from the fountains at times when they don't have bottles," said Allison, who declined to give her last name, as she picked up her 10-year-old daughter from the school Friday afternoon.

"I think it's very bad. It's not good for their health — lead is not good at all."

But others shrugged it off, chalking it up to part of city life, and felt the school and the educational department was taking quick action to clean up the problem.

"It's New York City public schools — the buildings are old," said Tara Pyne, whose two kids, aged 10 and 12, attend the school.

"I feel like they do a great job, and they're fixing it," she continued, noting the tainted fountains had been shut off and were being remediated.

A DOE spokeswoman assured parents there is no cause for alarm and that the agency will ensure children at the school receive safe drinking water.

“Parents can rest assured that water in New York City is of the highest quality in the world and we have stringent protocols and robust procedures in place to ensure that water in school buildings is safe for students and staff," spokeswoman Toya Holness said.

"This is standard protocol and there is no reason for alarm: we are continuing to provide students and staff with safe drinking water.”

When asked to specify levels of lead in the sources tested the DOE did not immediately respond.

Several other schools were found to have elevated levels of lead in their water, including Roosevelt Island's P.S./I.S. 217, which had concentrations of lead higher than water samples from Flint, Michigan during its water crisis.

Additional schools include Staten Island's I.S. 27 and McKinley Junior High School in Brooklyn, according to the Daily News.

A school representative declined to comment, referring DNAinfo New York to the Department of Education. The school's Parent Teacher Association did not immediately return a request for comment.