District also releases results from “Priority 1” group of schools, and outlines expected timeline for testing and results for all schools, interim measures, as well as results from on-going review of past data.
[Newark NJ — March 31, 2016] — The Newark Public Schools (NPS) announced today that additional water testing results, and the district’s new guidelines for responding to those results, are available online. The new test information pertains to eight non-traditional facilities that were not evaluated during the most recent annual testing period conducted between December 2015 and February 2016. These results are the first ones yielded by a comprehensive new strategy for testing, and remediating water across the district. This strategy assures that every outlet that is primarily intended for drinking or food preparation that yields an elevated sample will be shut off immediately upon receipt of a positive sample.
The sampling plan — which was developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in consultation with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Newark Public Schools (NPS) — is currently being implemented across the district. The new plan is an enhancement of previous testing practices in several important ways: It will test for lead at every available water source in every building, whereas previous tests took a sample of approximately 10 locations across each building; the new plan requires stringent pre-planning requirements to prepare a building for sampling, including labeling of all points of use and leaving water standing for 8 hours before a test; and the new plan requires very specific protocols for proper collection of water, differentiated for each point of use, whereas previous water tests used a standard protocol across all taps.
The new sampling plan also prioritizes that buildings be tested in the following order:
- Priority 1 Facilities: These consist of non-traditional buildings where lead testing did not occur in 2015-2016. These sites include buildings leased to charter schools, as well as a transportation hub, student center, and athletic facilities. This round of testing began on March 19th, 2016, and results are now available online here. Results show that 324 samples were taken from these eight facilities, with 16 (4.9%) of the samples from drinking water sources showing elevated readings above the 15ppb threshold set by the DEP.
- Priority 2 Facilities: These consist of NPS school buildings that recorded elevated levels of lead on certain taps in earlier 2015-16 results. This testing occurred in 27 buildings on March 24th and 25th, and results are expected to be returned to NPS on a rolling basis, with a portion of these results available to the public as early as next week. (These are the majority of those 30 active school buildings with elevated levels originally reported the remaining tests from three buildings are in process).
- Priority 3 Facilities: The district will test all buildings that did not show elevated levels in the 2015-16 results, along with any buildings or fixtures that may have not been available for sampling in prior rounds. Due to the quantity of buildings (47 in total), availability of laboratories, and date limitations (testing can only be conducted on weekends due to previously mentioned preparation protocols), this testing will begin as early as April 2nd, but will be conducted over several weeks.
“We are committed to comprehensive testing of all sites and full remediation of these issues,” said Superintendent Christopher Cerf. “We continue our practice of complete transparency about what we learn, and will provide whatever resources and supports are necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff. We believe these common sense guidelines will allow us to do that.”
The new testing and remediation policy was developed in consultation with the DEP that aligns with EPA guidelines. In all circumstances, any result greater than 15 ppb at an outlet used primarily for drinking or cooking will be shut off immediately. Those outlets that are primarily used for other purposes including hand-washing and cleaning (bathroom sinks, utility sinks) will generally be posted to state that the water can be used for hand-washing and cleaning but not for drinking. Other features of this policy include the following:
|Results of Water Tests||Guidelines for District Response|
|If elevated samples are found at 20% or more of drinking water sources in a school building:||Shut-off Elevated Drinking Water Sources: District staff will shut off all drinking water points of use where the elevated sample (above 15 ppb) was collected.Place Signage: School leaders will put up signs at the locations where elevated samples were collected at non-drinking water points of use, indicating sinks should not be used for drinking, food prep, or coffee making, but are safe for hand washing.
Continue to Supply Bottled Water: District staff will continue to supply bottled water (or make bottled water available if not a previously identified site) to impacted/affected schools.
|If elevated samples are found at under 20% of drinking water sources in a school building:||Shut-off Elevated Drinking Water Sources: District staff will shut off all drinking water points of use where the elevated sample (above 15 ppb) was collected.Place Signage: School leaders will put up signs at the locations where elevated samples were collected at non-drinking water points of use, indicating sinks should not be used for drinking, food prep, or coffee making, but are safe for hand washing.
Return to Normal Water Use: District staff will recommend that schools return to use of normal drinking water and cease use of bottled water if a previously impacted site.
|If elevated samples are only found at non-drinking water sources in a school building:||Place Signage: School leaders will put up signs at the locations where elevated samples were collected at non-drinking water points of use, indicating sinks should not be used for drinking, food prep, or coffee making, but are safe for hand washing.Return to Normal Water Use: Schools to return to use of normal drinking water and cease use of bottled water, if currently using bottled water.|
|If no elevated samples are found||Return to Normal Water Use: Schools to return to use of normal drinking water and cease use of bottled water, if currently using bottled water|
|Definitions: Drinking Water Sources include: Water Coolers, fountains, kitchen prep sinks, classroom sinks, teacher’s lounge sinks, nurse’s office sinks, and bubblers. Non-Drinking Water Sources include: Bathroom sinks, hand sinks, and utility sinks|
Moving forward, the district will continue to prioritize transparency and share results of current and past data in the following ways:
- The district will provide weekly updates to the public about current water testing that include progress towards sampling, most recent results received, and the response taken to the latest round of water tests. While results are being expedited by laboratories, it generally takes approximately two weeks from the date of the test until results are complete; this timeline includes receipt of results, analysis of results, quality assurance of data, contacting the school leader, and preparation for public release.
- The district will continue release past data as it becomes available; data from 2012 to present is currently on the district website, and data dating back to 2010 will be available in the coming days. The district will only publish past test results acquired from the laboratories that conducted them to ensure that all data posted is an accurate representation of tests. The district has reached out to labs that conducted tests before 2010, and has not yet received those results.
Once comprehensive test results have been collected in all schools, and preliminary plans are in place, the district will begin moving towards plans for permanent remediation of these issues
In addition, the district continues to undertake a comprehensive review of past practices related to work order documentation, filter purchases, and remediation efforts. Initial findings from this review show that while thousands of work orders and purchase orders can be connected to previous mitigation and remediation efforts, due to inconsistent documentation, the district cannot connect specific remediation events to every historical test. The district will be sharing further responses to specific questions about past practice on its website. In response to these findings, the district is improving documentation systems, re-training staff to ensure that data is entered correctly, and reviewing management practices to ensure that all employees are held accountable to consistent and well documented implementation of remediation protocols.
Lastly, the district continues to work with the Newark Department of Health to ensure that students have access to optional free blood testing. Testing was made available at two early childhood sites on 3/17 and 3/18; and over spring break at school sites on three separate dates. Across these 5 days, according to the Newark Health Department, approximately 300 students took advantage of the free testing option. The Newark Health Department will be sharing additional availability of free school site testing on Saturdays throughout April. Previous information has been made available on the district website, through phone calls to all district families, and through letters sent home to families and staff. The district will continue to assist the Department of Health in sharing information about the available opportunities, and recommends that all families and staff members contact their primary care physician as a first step if they have any health concerns.