Newark turned down EPA's 2003 offer to help lower lead levels, report says

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 17, 2016

Newark schools reportedly declined federal help in 2003.

 

NEWARK — Elevated levels of lead have been present in the drinking water at Newark Public Schools for more than a decade, and according to a new report, the district previously refused federal help to deal with the issue.

According to a WNYC report, Environmental Protection Agency officials say the federal outfit worked with Newark to identify a lead issue in the schools buildings' drinking water back in 2003. When the EPA offered to help remediate the issue, the district refused, saying it already had a remediation program in place, the EPA told WNYC.

Current school district officials have been scrambling to find past test results in light of elevated lead levels that were revealed in 2015 tests. Thursday night, the district released results for the last three school years, which showed elevated levels dated back that far.

Marion Bolden, who led the district from 1999 to 2008, told WNYC the district aggressively addressed the issue at the time, via methods like water fountain replacement and faucet flushing. The district also conducted regular testing and alerted parents when levels were elevated, she said in the report.

School employees have alleged that filters have not been properly maintained. Thursday, the state released a document outlining new testing and remediation methods, saying they were necessary in light of "uncertainty" about past practices in the district.

The city began testing students' blood lead levels Thursday. Re-testing water lead levels at all of the district's 82 locations is set to begin Saturday.

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