Newark Public Schools have Lead-Tainted Water

Sadly, lead-tainted water is not an issue isolated to the city of Flint, Michigan. Recently, Newark Public Schools acknowledged the presence of high levels of lead in its drinking water. Officials have reportedly known about the contaminated water for years. Drinking lead-tainted water can lead to developmental problems in children. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has set a safety threshold of 15 parts per billion, experts agree that there is no safe amount of exposure.


Testing showed that 30 of 67 schools in the Newark school system have lead levels exceeding the EPA threshold. Officials are offering blood tests for elevated lead levels in response. NYT reports that lead levels have been high in the water for years, and that officials have known about the issue since as early as 2004.


The district says it will release results from previous years. Some action has been taken in the past, such as installing water filters, to combat lead exposure.


A NYT editorial piece called the news “shocking but, sadly, not surprising given the neglect of public schools, especially those in poor communities, by Congress and state governments”. In Flint, as many as 8,000 children under the age of 6 may be affected by lead in the water. Last month, a NYT article pointed out that Flint is only one of several cities to face water contamination problems.


Oftentimes, lead in the water is caused by old plumbing. School districts nationwide, including those in Washington, D.C., Seattle and Los Angeles, have faced issues with lead contamination. Older pipes are more likely to contain high levels of lead. Regulations have been lacking; Congress did not impose a limit on lead levels in pipes until 1986. The maximum amount was set to 8 percent. It remained at 8 percent until only 2014, when it was lowered to 0.25 percent. NYT comments that no federal law requires schools to test water obtained through a public water utility.