As you may recall, late last school year the district announced that it would undertake a comprehensive review of the water quality throughout all 16-school buildings and the education center. This comprehensive assessment came as a result of the numerous stories in local, state and national news about the presence of lead in drinking water in schools. Knowing full well the age of most of our buildings, we felt this was an important undertaking to ensure the safety and health of our students and staff.
This voluntary sampling, which was not required by law or regulation, was conducted as a preventative measure. Because there are many possible sources of lead in the environment including older homes and buildings, soil, dust, products and toys, hobbies and drinking water, our goal is to identify any locations within the district where further investigation or lead reduction actions could be taken to make our schools as safe as possible for students and staff.
Beginning on May 28, 2016 the district conducted lead sampling in ALL district buildings. The sampling was completed on June 22, 2016. The sampling protocol was developed by an independent Industrial Hygiene Consultant and Engineering firm, adhering to the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Samples were analyzed by an independent National Environmental Laboratory Accredited Program (NELAP) Analytical Laboratory.
Over the course of the sampling period the district took a total of 2,501 samples for lead in water throughout the district. Roughly half of those were initial draw samples, (or samples taken immediately upon turning on a faucet or water fountain) and half were collected after turning on the faucet or drinking fountain for 30 seconds.
Laboratory results revealed that of the 2,501 samples, 39 “High Priority” drinking water source samples (approximately 1.6% of samples collected) contained lead levels above 15 parts per billion in either initial draw or flush samples. Upon learning this, the district took immediate action to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. These fixtures, faucets or fountains have been turned off to prevent use until they are replaced as a further precaution they have been labeled as “Do Not Use.”
From the 2,501 samples collected, 173 (approximately 6.9%) “Medium Priority” non-drinking water source samples from bathrooms, laboratory sinks, etc. contained lead above the 15 ppb Action Limit for Public Water Systems. Upon advice from the Westchester Department of Health and in consultation with independent Industrial Hygiene Consultant and Engineering firm , these areas have been designated as “Handwashing Only –Not for Drinking” stations. Signage will be in place for the start of school indicating this to both staff and students.
The Mount Vernon City School District takes the health and safety of our students and staff very seriously. The process to replace the high priority fixtures is already underway and we hope to have all high priority fixtures replaced by October 1, 2016. As progress is made on the replacement of these fixtures and the continued remediation of our schools, I will communicate that information to you.
For more information on our testing protocol, or to view school-by-school results click here.
If you have any questions regarding the sampling or findings, please contact Mr. Michael Pelliccio at (914) 665-5190.
If you have any health concerns, please contact your family physician, the Mt. Vernon School District / Pearlcare Medical Staffing LLC physician Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma at (917) 893-5733, or the Westchester County Health Department at (914) 813-5000.