(Staten Island, NY) – Council Member Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) has been calling for tightening the
City’s policy on how they test for lead in public school’s drinking water since
April of 2016 when he and Minority
Leader Steve Matteo wrote a letter to the Department of Education calling
on them to put an immediate end to the practice of “flushing,” or running
faucets to clear out contaminants before testing.
The New York Times published a contemporaneous article
describing the technique used by the DOE to mislead independent water quality
testers and influence the results of the tests to show artificially-lowered
levels of lead and metals exposure that would fall within the acceptable
ranges. According to the Times,
every school that was tested turned on
every water outlet in their respective buildings for two full hours to rid the
pipes of the lead, metals, and sediment build-up that were present in time for
the next day’s water-quality test. This practice, called “flushing,” is
specifically recommended against by the EPA. In fact, the memorandum within
which they clarified this position was released in response to the lead
exposure crisis in Flint, Michigan, which was allowed to fester because water
quality testing was manipulated.
Council Member Borelli’s legislation
will officially ban the manipulative practice of “flushing” to ensure that in
the future, NYC DOE cannot compromise the testing results.
“That our constituents may be sending their children to school to
be unknowingly subjected to heavy metal contaminants like lead in their
drinking water is unconscionable. It is a fundamental expectation of parents
that their children be provided with a safe environment at our public schools,
and goes without saying that the water from which they drink should be clean
and the integrity of the required testing should not be compromised for the
sake of political expediency,” said Borelli.
“From the moment we were made aware of the presence of elevated levels of lead
in the drinking water at Staten Island’s public schools, Minority Leader Matteo
and I have been committed to making sure the DOE has protocols in place to
conduct accurate and transparent testing, in line with federal guidelines for
safe drinking water, and without manipulation from DOE officials.”
Council is committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us, our children.
Lead poisoning isn’t just a public health issue – it is a racial and economic
justice issue because low-income communities and children of color are the most
at risk to lead exposure. This package of bills is a big step forward in our
fight to ensure existing lead laws protect our children from lead poisoning. I
thank all my colleagues for their work to pass these bills today and for their
commitment to this Council’s ongoing efforts to create the strongest and most
protective anti-lead poisoning regulatory framework in the country here in New
York City,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.