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I am concerned about lead in the drinking water at NYC schools. What information do I need to know?

New state regulations mandating the testing for lead in water in all public New York schools went into effect on Sept. 6, 2016. To comply with these state laws, the DOE has been testing all water outlets in all New York City schools for lead. You can access your school’s results on the DOE's Water Safety website.

Because lead does not absorb through the skin, state regulations do not require sinks that can be used for handwashing to be shut off if a sign is posted to tell people that the water is NOT to be used for drinking but can be used for handwashing. Water service to outlets found to have elevated levels of lead that are for the express purpose of drinking or cooking (i.e., fountains and kitchen sinks) must be shut off. Notify us if this is not being followed.

Following findings of elevated levels, the DOE will remediate the problem by identifying and removing whatever the source of the lead may be (i.e., brass fixtures, valves, fittings, solder, etc). The water will be retested for lead afterward. If the lead levels are below the state standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb), it can be returned to service and the sign be removed. If not, further remediation is required until test results show that lead levels are below 15 ppb at that outlet.

The water we source from the city is rigorously tested to ensure that it is safe; however, it may pick up lead once it enters a school building with lead in its plumbing system and especially after the water sits for long periods of time in pipes that may contain lead.

Citywide water testing in schools has occurred three times in the past, and historically we have not yet had a case of lead poisoning among members (and students) that was linked back to the water in their school. Nonetheless, we still recommend that if members think they have been exposed to lead that they ask their doctors for a blood lead test. Do let the UFT Safety and Health Department know if you have a diagnosis of elevated blood lead levels in your school. 

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact your district representative, borough safety and health specialist or the UFT safety and health department. To access your school’s water testing result, use the “Find a school” search function on the DOE website for school’s DOE page, click on “Data and Reports” and look for the “Facilities” heading.