Elevated lead levels found at P.S. 41

Councilman King (c) addresses excessive lead levels found at P.S. 41 during a press conference on Monday, February 6.
Community News Group/Arthur Cusano

Elevated levels of lead have been detected in an Olinville elementary school, city officials recently announced.

The findings were announced during a Monday, February 6 press conference in front of P.S. 41, located just off Gun Hill Road, by Councilman Andy King.

The councilman was joined by representatives from the NYC Department of Education and several school employee labor unions.

Letters sent out Friday, January 27 to parents of students at the school informed them the DEC tested all of the water sources at the school on Thursday, January 12, and found that 10 of the 63 samples collected contained elevated levels of lead.

The highest level detected was a fifth floor cold water faucet in an adult men’s bathroom, at 442 parts per billion.

However the results likely of more concern to parents were four water fountains located on various floors that all exceeded the elevated benchmark.

A first-floor classroom fountain was tested at 206 ppb, while a third-floor hallway fountain was measured at 43 ppb and a fourth-floor hallway fountain was tested at 20 ppb.

A basement classroom fountain was gauged at 260 ppb.

Any water source found to contain more than 15 pbb in a city school automatically triggers a DOE response of shutting down, flushing and replacing all water sources.

Water fountains and faucets used for cooking will be shut down at the school until the plan is implemented.

King said 23 out of the 36 schools in his district have tested positive for elevated levels of lead, a neurotoxin that has been banned from construction for decades but is still found in some older buildings.

“That means we have a little work to do, and that’s okay because the only way you can fix something is to uncover what needs to be done,” King said.

The city recently revamped its system of testing for lead in schools after criticism from health experts, who said the flushing of pipes for two hours before they went unused for eight hour prior to testing skewed the results.

Testing done since December has not been proceeded by a flushing.

DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness stressed the lead detected is due to aging lead fixtures that are being replaced as they are detected, and is not coming from the city’s water supply.

The results of the school water tests can be found on the department website under the ‘water safety’ section, she said.

Results for individual schools can be found using a database search tool located on the page.

Among other schools flagged for exceeding lead standars is the Bronx High School of Science, in which 13 fixtures were reported.

DOE Division of Facilities CEO John Shea said that finding some elevated lead levels in fixtures tested was normal, and immediate steps were being taken at P.S. 41.

“Those fixtures are isolated, and by the end of this week we will have them replaced and we will test them again before we put them back into service,” he said.

King said P.S. 41, which he had attended and which is now attended by his granddaughter, was over 75 years old.

In addition to aging fixtures, King said bathrooms at the school were in dire need of renovation.

King promised $400,000 in city council funds towards renovating every bathroom in the building.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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