NPCSD Takes Action on Lead in Water

Following a series of testings, results from Ulster BOCES have revealed lead levels above the allowed limit in various water fixtures in the New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD).

On Feb. 1, Dr. Michael O’Rourke of the Health, Safety and Risk Management department at Ulster BOCES and Stephen Callahan, Director of Facilities and Operations for the New Paltz Central School District, spoke at the Board of Education meeting to discuss the testing results. 

According to O’Rourke, fixtures in Duzine and Lenape Elementary schools were tested for lead contamination in September. New Paltz Middle School and New Paltz High School were tested in October. This testing was required by legislation passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 16, 2016. 

Twenty-four fixtures in the elementary schools, 56 in the middle school and 53 in the high school all had lead levels exceeding the 15 parts per billion (ppb) action level, the maximum accepted amount designated by the Department of Health. However, excessive lead levels were not found in fixtures designed for consumption. 

“The vast majority of fixtures that failed in NPCSD and all of Ulster County School Districts are fixtures that are not intended to be used for drinking,” O’Rourke said. “I’m talking about laboratory sinks and outdoor hose bibbs where you connect a garden hose, those are the most of them that failed.” 

According to Superintendent Maria Rice, new “lead free” fixtures have since been installed. Being lead free does not mean free of lead but rather containing lead up to .25 percent, O’Rourke stated.

O’Rourke also disclosed discussions about removing aerators on the new fixtures, a site of lead accumulation. This is attributed to the possibility of cross contamination during manufacturing. 

“A lot of these fixtures are made overseas in factories where they make the lead free fixtures in the same factory as they make the leaded fixtures,” O’Rourke said.

In response to failings all across the school district, Rice originally called for all fixtures that failed to be shut off. She said this was the best option until a more definitive plan was established. 

“The only other option we considered was to put up a warning sign,” Rice said. “I did not think that was good enough at the elementary schools especially.”

However, concerns were raised by parents in the time between fixtures being shut off and a remediation plan being formulated, Rice said. According to O’Rourke, this time gap was extended due to a longer turnaround time between sending in lead samples and receiving lab results. 

“When we were sending samples in late September, early October, our turnaround time for getting results was five to six weeks in some cases,” O’Rourke said. “Whereas, when I normally take stuff in it’s four days.”

Lead testing in the school district will next be conducted again in 2020. Further tests will be conducted every five years after then.