Officials are testing water at 12 D.C. schools. (Courtesy of NBC Washington)
Officials are testing water at 12 D.C. schools. (Courtesy of NBC Washington)

There remain serious concerns about the drinking water in Washington, D.C., schools, and several officials are pressing for action to prevent a Flint, Michigan-like disaster here. “Following the alarming news about elevated levels of lead recently reported in 12 D.C. Public Schools, I share very serious concerns with parents and neighbors about making sure our children are staying safe and healthy,” District Council member (At Large) Elissa Silverman said.

“All D.C. public schools will be retesting their drinking water, and the Department of General Services will be updating parents on an ongoing basis,” Silverman said.

“Several schools affected were in my own neighborhood, and I will be working with Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen to make sure concerns are addressed in a timely and comprehensive manner.”

Reportedly, in the current academic year, 17 water sources at 12 D.C. public schools tested positive for elevated lead levels.

And in recent weeks, the school system has come under fire for not communicating to parents when their children’s school tested positive for the elevated levels.

District officials are performing more tests out of an abundance of caution, they said, and the Department of General Services announced that throughout May it will retest all water sources in D.C. Public Schools for elevated lead levels. This includes sinks and hoses, not just water fountains. It will also test water sources at city recreation centers before summer camp starts June 17.

In 2015, DGS tested 3,734 samples from drinking water sources in its 113 public schools. Reportedly, 17 sources in 12 schools were identified as having levels deemed “actionable” by Environmental Protection Agency standards.

If a source tests at an actionable level, water sources are shut off, filters are installed or other remediation is performed. The water source is supposed to remain out of service until retesting shows the water is safe to drink.

In a letter posted on the agency website, City Administrator Rashad Young says “unfortunately, in isolated instances, that protocol was not strictly followed.” In most cases, elevated levels of lead in drinking water can be traced to older pipes or fixtures in a building.

While lead testing results have been posted online for years, D.C. public schools will now alert parents about the findings.

“As test results are returned, we will remediate any issues, and we will publicly share the results,” wrote Young. High levels of lead are linked to brain damage and developmental problems.

“We know that lead is not good for child development,” said Jennie Niles, D.C.’s deputy mayor for education. “We want to make sure the water our kids are drinking in schools is healthy.”

However, residents remain concerned, and they remember the lead scare that the city dealt with about 10 years ago. They said they want action and not excuses.

“As many funds that come into the schools and everything, this problem should have been resolved,” Northeast resident Wanda Ganus told Fox 5 DC.

“It should have been taken care of if they knew the lead was here,” said James Miller. “This is an old building. They should have been checking this.”

D.C. Council member David Grosso (D-At-Large) told FOX 5 he is launching an aggressive effort to test the water at all D.C. Public Schools and charter schools in the city.

The D.C. Council has scheduled a hearing on this at the Wilson Building on June 22 that will bring together school and environmental officials.

“We’re moving forward now and asking the city to do a full test of every school, every water source in the school to make sure that we cover every building where the kids are trying to learn,” said Grosso. “That’s true with charter schools as well as traditional schools.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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