The school district held a meeting in the Seth Boyden auditorium on Saturday to address the nine water outlets throughout the district that were recently found to have high levels of lead in their water.
Superintendent John Ramos led the meeting, which included members of the board of education, health officials from South Orange and Maplewood, building maintenance staff from the district, and a representative from the LEW Corporation, which did the testing.
In a long and sometimes contentious meeting, many questions were asked and many concerns were voiced by parents from Seth Boyden and around the district. You can watch a Facebook video of the entire meeting if you join the South Orange-Maplewood Cares About Schools Facebook group. A list of every test result for 2016 and 2017 is available on the district site, as are links to more information on lead in water.
Some of the major takeaways from the meeting:
- All 9 water sources are being retested. New samples have been taken, and the district is waiting on results.
- The district is going to replace all nine affected outlets, and will be installing lead filters on every water fountain in the district. The district will also be including long-term water system solutions as part of its larger building maintenance and capital improvement plans.
- District officials said they were looking into options for testing students for elevated lead levels. Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker said that setting up testing for all students in the district was proving to be more complicated than they had anticipated, but that they were working on a plan that could include testing by a lab provider or community-based health provider. Maplewood Health Officer Robert Roe said any family without access to medical care would be able to get tested for free, and that they would have a plan for that “in a couple of weeks.” (More on that here.) Seth Boyden teacher Sheila Murphy spoke strongly of her opinion that free, in-school testing was needed for all students immediately.
- The elevated levels found in the test results came from a “first draw” test, which means the taps were off for 8 to 48 hours before the samples were taken. These samples are designed to produce the highest lead levels, as the water is sitting in place for a long period before it’s drawn. The representative from the LEW Corporation said that we are still waiting on “second draw” test results, in which the samples are taken after running the tap for a set period of time.
- The representative from the LEW Corporation also said that water testing shows a high level of variability. In other words, the numbers are often different form test to test, from “first draw” to “second draw,” etc.
- The representative from the LEW Corporation said that they’ve tested about two dozen districts since testing became required by law in New Jersey, and that an average of a little less than 10 percent of outlets came back with elevated lead levels. Our district, with 9 of 223 outlets, was about 4 percent.