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Lead Levels in Inwood School's Water Are Up To 450 Times Federal Limit

By Carolina Pichardo | February 9, 2017 4:56pm
 Parents of the Muscota New School, located on 4862, said they received a letter from the DOE stating high levels of lead were found in water samples from several water fixtures in the school.
Parents of the Muscota New School, located on 4862, said they received a letter from the DOE stating high levels of lead were found in water samples from several water fixtures in the school.
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DNAInfo/Nigel Chiwaya

INWOOD — A test of lead levels in the water at an Inwood elementary school found samples with up to 450 times the federal limit, including water from faucets in a boys' bathroom, according to the Department of Education.

P.S./I.S. 176, located on 4862 Broadway and shared between Muscota New School and Amistad Dual Language School, had elevated levels of lead in a dozen water samples from classrooms, bathrooms, kitchen faucets and and water fountains — including two faucets from a second-floor boys’ bathroom that measured a whopping 6,620 parts per billion (ppb) and 493 ppb, according to a letter from the DOE sent home to parents on Feb. 6.

No level of lead in water is considered safe, but the federal government demands action be taken whenever water is found at or above 15 ppb.

The 12 faucets inside the school building where elevated lead levels were found also included:

► The kitchen on the first floor had a faucet where the sample measured 71.1 ppb.

► The faucet in the girls’ first-floor bathroom measured 174 ppb.

► Two second-floor drinking fountains — or “bubblers” as they're called — measured 135 ppb and 148 ppb. One drinking fountain on the third floor measured 30 ppb.

► A fourth-floor classroom faucet measured 1,110 ppb.

► Three classrooms on the third floor measured 107 ppb and 641 ppb.

► Faucets from two classrooms on the first floor measured on the lower scale at 15.6 ppb and 18.2 ppb.

The DOE wouldn’t release information about specific lead levels for other schools that have been tested so far, saying they would only release that information once all tests were completed.

However, the DOE's water safety website revealed there have been elevated results found in several other locations, including P.S. 98 on 512 W. 212th St., I.S. 52 on 650 Academy St., and at Washington Heights Academy on 202 Sherman Ave., which moved into that specific location in 2012 after operating for years out of trailers near P.S. 152.

P.S. 152, also known as Dyckman Valley and located at 93 Nagle Ave., did not have any elevated results, according to the DOE's website.

The results for P.S./I.S. 176 alarmed many parents who said more should be done to ensure the safety of all public school kids.

In the Feb. 6 letter to parents detailing the test results, DOE officials advised that “parents should discuss their child’s health history with their child’s physician to determine if blood lead testing is appropriate."

But parents say it's the city's responsibility to make sure their children have not been impacted by lead found in schools.

“The DOE should pay for lead testing for kids,” said Eliza Miller, a physician whose son attends Muscota, adding that her concern isn’t just for her child, but for all students.

Frye also said not doing more for kids, especially when the DOE is so focused on test scores, is "ironic" considering there are several studies that directly link lead levels to scores on tests.

Lead is harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of children under 6 years old, a fact the DOE noted in their letters to parents.

DOE officials have continued to stress that the source of the lead found in the water samples was likely from water fixtures or pipes in the school and not a representation of the city's 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,” said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness.

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

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified one of the parents.