State database provides information about lead in water of school districts

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The New Jersey Department of Education has recently released a centralized database designed to provide lead testing information on school districts in the state.

The database is part of the state’s three-pronged approach to strengthen New Jersey’s response to lead testing and remedy elevated lead levels in drinking water in state schools, according to officials.

Princeton Public Schools was one of more than 24 districts in the database that had too much lead discovered in its water samples in the database’s latest report.

For the Princeton, the most recent lead sampling and analysis was done in 2017.

“The only issues identified in earlier testing involved a few older faucets and water fountains. Those issues were immediately addressed. We were attentive back then,” Superintendent Steve Cochrane said. “Our water has tested fine, as has our pipe infrastructure. “We are happy to report that the water in our schools meets all acceptable standards.”

He said everything has been fine since the 2017 test.

“Our water source tested fine. We get our water from American Water,” Cochrane said. “The one issues we found in 2016 and 2017 involved a few older faucets and water fountains. Those were immediately replaced. It was not uncommon for older faucets to be made with lead, so we replaced them.”

According to Cochrane, the lead results produced from the tests were slightly over the 15 parts per billion (ppb) limit.

State officials said the state database provides water quality information reported by school districts, including whether any samples exceeded the permissible lead action level, the date of the most recent sampling, a link to the full sampling results, and contact information for the school district or other school entity.

“New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure has sparked a statewide conversation on the best way forward to protect residents from the dangers of lead exposure,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in statement.

“In October, I announced a three-pronged strategy to address lead in schools, and I am proud that a month later, the Department of Education implemented a critical part of our plan,” Murphy explained in the statement. “By mobilizing the state’s resources to modernize reporting mechanisms and increase public transparency, we are fulfilling our commitment to ensure New Jersey’s children and educators have access to clean, safe drinking water in our schools.”

Those summaries are on the state Department of Education’s Lead Testing webpage and will be updated on a rolling basis as additional information is provided by school districts and schools, according to state officials.

The school district, prior to 2017’s test, had preformed lead sampling in 2016.

The 2016 test had samples from Littlebrook Elementary School, Riverside Elementary School, Community Park Elementary School, John Witherspoon Middle School, Johnson Park Elementary School. At that time, the results produced three test failures at the Johnson Park School. The rest of the schools tested had no failures reported in testing.

“All samples in 2016 that were found to be at a level above the permissible 15 [ppb] were under the first draw sampling, indicating that the lead source was from the faucets, and/or bubblers [water fountains],” said David Harding, Director of Facilities. “Each device was immediately removed and isolated. Two of the three were replaced and third left out of service.”

Harding said he feels the drinking water is safe in the district and the next round of testing will be in 2022.

Lead testing summaries for the state database will be updated when the new testing cycle begins in the 2021-22 school year.