By Fariha Tamboli and Lei Lei Wu
On April 27, WW-P superintendent Dr. David Aderhold published a letter to the district announcing the results of the lead tests conducted during spring break on the water fountain pipes of all ten schools in the district. The letter summarized reports from PARS Environmental, the company that conducted the lead tests for the district. Out of the ten schools, CMS, Wicoff, Millstone, Town Center, and North were safe, while Village, Dutch Neck, Maurice Hawk, Grover, and South had lead levels above 15 ppb, which is unsafe for drinking water.
Earlier in March, Aderhold announced the lead tests as a response to other lead contamination incidences in Flint, Michigan and close by in Newark. The water supply leading into the school buildings was already tested safe by New Jersey American Water, but the district wanted to further inspect the water quality. Aderhold said in his letter, “As a precaution, the WW-P Department of Buildings and Grounds is in the process of contracting with an environmental company to complete water testing at all ten schools.”
In children, lead poisoning can lead to development issues, slowed growth, and anemia. Continuously being exposed to abnormal concentrations of lead can also lead to “increased blood pressure and decreased kidney function” (EPA). However, human skin does not absorb lead, so the main threat comes from the lead in older pipes that may enter the drinking water supply.
Due to such risks, the district decided to take initiative to test the water for lead. The Flint water crisis in Michigan attracted nationwide attention and started a movement of checking water pipes, especially older ones, for possible lead contamination. North’s principal Dr. Jonathan Dauber said, “I think it is an opportunity for us to take a positive step forward in ensuring that things are the way they should be in order to support students and teacher health. It is not anything state-mandated or specific to schools really, but it’s more of what’s trending right now—lead.”
The results for North were delayed due to unknown reasons by PARS, who could not be reached. Senior Madison Hughes said, “At first, I thought it was concerning because I know multiple people who use the water fountains, but once it was deemed safe, I felt relieved, though I still think the water tastes funny.” The results for North were later released on May 6, announcing the water at North was below 15 ppb.
Fortunately, North’s drinking water contained only safe amounts of lead and was thus announced safe for consumption. However, for the other schools including South, the story is different. Currently, the pipes with high concentrations of lead have been shut off. In his April 18 letter regarding the issue, Aderhold said, “The health and safety of our students and staff is of our greatest priority. We will work with local officials and the environmental consultant to ensure that appropriate remedial actions are taken.”