Newark Public Schools says it shut off drinking fountains at affected schools
Mayor tells reporters the lead levels are not "elevated to the level of Flint"
Officials in Newark, New Jersey, were scrambling Wednesday to reassure an anxious public after testing showed elevated lead levels in the water at 30 school buildings.
Newark Public Schools said it had shut off all drinking fountains at those schools, and is posting signs in the bathrooms saying not to drink from the faucets. Alternative sources of water, such as bottled water, are available.
“We are confident to say that the water source in Newark is fine. There are a few issues at the schools. And they are elevated,” Mayor Ras Baraka told reporters. “We are dealing with it.”
He stressed the lead levels are not “elevated to the level of Flint,” referring to the now well-known water crisis in Michigan.
The Newark school system said, “In the vast majority of cases where lead is found in drinking water, it enters through the water delivery system itself when it leaches from either lead pipes, household fixtures containing lead, or lead solder.”
Levels at the 30 locations ranged from 15.6 parts per billion to 558 ppb – well above the Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called action level of 15 ppb.
By comparison, in Flint, testing showed lead levels as high as 13,200 ppb in the most extreme case. Water contaminated with 5,000 ppb of lead is classified by the EPA as hazardous waste.
The Newark school district is the largest in New Jersey. It has 66 schools, 35,000 students and employs close to 6,000 people.