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September 12, 2016
Dear Families and Staff,
As a follow up to my May 2, 2016 letter and the letter the New York City Department of Education (DOE) sent on March 23, 2016, outlining the number of proactive, ongoing measures the DOE has been taking to ensure that the water in New York City schools is safe for students and staff, I want to share additional information about water testing for lead at The Bellaire School.
The water at The Bellaire School, was recently retested and the results came back completely negative for elevated lead levels.
New York City’s water is of the highest quality, meeting or exceeding all federal and State standards. The City regulates its own watershed that surrounds — and protects — our reservoirs, and the water is tested over 500,000 times each year at various points throughout the system. Beyond these extensive measures, the DOE works with City agencies, including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to ensure our students have access to safe drinking water in schools.
DEP has invested more than $10 billion over the last decade to maintain and improve our water supply infrastructure. Between 2008 and 2010, DEP worked with DOE and other city agencies to identify and remove lead service lines to schools and other municipal buildings.
Beginning in 2002, the DOE partnered with DOHMH and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test the water in DOE school buildings. Currently, in every NYC public school built before the 1986 ban on lead in construction, the water has been tested for lead.
For those buildings that ever had even one outlet with results above recommended levels, we have implemented a protocol, approved by DOHMH and based on EPA guidance, involving a combination of weekly flushing, equipment replacement and more, to ensure the safety of students and faculty. Flushing has been shown to be highly effective in removing lead from water because (a) flushing builds up the protective coating on plumbing pipes and (b) flushing moves old water out of the system and brings in fresh water.
As you know, the water at The Bellaire School was initially tested for lead on April 4, 2016, and there were 3 elevated samples out of 168 samples tested. This information is also available on the DOE’s searchable database at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/watersafety.htm.
As a result of the 3 elevated results, our school is on the Health Department-approved protocol in order to ensure our water remains safe for students and faculty. This protocol is proven to be highly effective in removing lead from water. For the limited number of elevated samples, the vast majority are only found on “first-draw,” involving stagnant water that has been sitting in pipes for prolonged periods of time. That stagnant water is removed through our regular flushing protocol. We also take the highly-protective step of removing all equipment connected to one of the elevated samples.
In accordance with EPA guidelines, the flushing protocol includes the following:
- Flushing takes place following weekends and holidays (prior to student and staff arrival)
- Cold water taps used to obtain water for drinking or cooking purposes will be flushed
- The furthest outlet or faucet from each branch line will be flushed first for 10 minutes
- All other outlets on that branch line will be flushed until the water gets cold, or for a maximum of one minute
- Drinking fountains with refrigeration units will be flushed for one minute
- Custodial Engineers will document all flushing exercises and maintain a record in the school’s Safety Log
Additionally, the plumbing and fixtures that tested positive in the The Bellaire School building were removed from service and replaced.
On August 4, 2016 the water at The Bellaire School was retested for lead and there were no elevated samples. This information is also available on the DOE’s searchable database at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/watersafety.htm. The building will remain on the flushing protocol out of an abundance of caution.
Please be reassured that the water in our school building is safe to drink. While there is no cause for concern about the water in our school building, we understand that you take your child’s safety seriously and we share that commitment to safety with you.