LOWER MANHATTAN — Ten Lower Manhattan public schools, including five of its six elementary schools, Stuyvesant High School and the High School for Economics and Finance, have tested for high levels of lead from several of their water sources, including water fountains and kitchen faucets, according to data from the Department of Education.
Now, Downtown elected officials are calling on the DOE to do a better job of informing families, and their own offices, about recent findings of high lead levels in schools' water supplies.
At two Downtown schools, the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School and the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching — which both share a home at 26 Broadway — one kitchen faucet was found to have more than 125 times the federal threshold for lead in water, data shows.
In the wake of new lead testing protocol for New York schools, in recent months, many schools across the city have registered higher-than acceptable levels of lead in their water. While no amount of lead in water is good, the Environmental Protection Agency says the "action level" threshold for lead in water is 15 parts per billion (ppb).
At the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School and the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching one faucet had 1,900 ppb. One kitchen faucet at TriBeCa elementary school P.S. 234 has tested for 821 ppb.
Parents were sent letters in January and February that detailed how much lead and in which location the lead was found.
Officials including State Sen. Daniel Sqaudron, State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Congressman Gerrold Nadler want the DOE to make the information available on the school's website within a day of informing parents via letter.
"We understand that this is a sensitive subject. As such, the DOE should be fully transparent with all available information and communicate with all affected stakeholders," officials wrote in a letter to the DOE sent on March 10.
Officials asked the DOE also send the lead levels to them as well as to the community board when a school in their district is tested for high lead levels. They also want specific remediation plans for the water fixtures made more clear to parents — and want the results of future lead tests to be posted online.
Earlier in the month, the city's five borough presidents called on the DOE to offer free lead tests for children, to ensure they have not been affected by the lead levels, as well as free bottled water.
The DOE has repeatedly said that the source of New York City's water is lead free, and water in the schools is safe to drink as they have taken immediate action to stop use of any fixture where high lead was found, flushing the system, replacing parts and retesting for lead.
"Parents can rest assured that water in schools is safe for students and staff to drink," said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness. "Any drinking or cooking water fixture with results over 15ppb is immediately taken offline and remediated. The safety of students and staff is our top priority and we have rigorous testing and remediation protocols in place."
While parents at several of the affected schools said principals have assured them that most of the fixtures where lead was found were not regularly used, many agree that they are still left feeling not fully informed about the lead levels.
There's confusion about how long these water sources have been problematic, and whether students need to be tested for lead levels. And parents are wondering — especially in cases of schools that are newer, like the Peck Slip School which opened in 2015 — why some fixtures spout water with lead.
"I think we all want more answers, and more transparency," said Wendy Chapman, a parent of a student at the Lower Manhattan Community School. "We're trusting that everything is being done to protect our kids, but we're still left with a lot of questions."
Below are list of the affected schools in Lower Manhattan. Links are provided for those schools that the DOE has uploaded testing data for as of Tuesday.
► Battery Park City School
► Leadership and Public Service High School
► High School Economics and Finance
► Stuyvesant High School