Contamination spiked last year, with dangerous levels found in one of every six samples. The parents of Newark school children were never informed.
Tests at Newark public schools during the 2014-2015 school year showed a 50 percent higher incidence of dangerous lead contamination than were detected this year, according to results released by the Newark Public Schools. Those results were kept from the parents of Newark school children and school employees who never realized they might be drinking poisoned water.
This year’s 10 percent incidence of dangerously high levels of lead, revealed by this site more than a week ago, created the crisis that has frightened and angered parents and led to the shutting down of water supplies in some 30 schools in the state’s largest school district. It also ushered in massive testing of children–perhaps up to 17,000 students.
But in the 2014-1015 school year, the incidence of contamination above the 15.5 ppb (parts per billion) level was 15.27 percent. That’s one in six samples. The district used a 15.5 ppb standard, slightly higher than the 15 ppb standard used this year, citing “guidance from the federal Environmental Protection Administration.”
The year before, in 2013-2014, the incidence of contamination at dangerous levels was 13.31 percent. The year before, in 2012-2013, it was 6.84 percent.
This is what the percentages mean. The testing contractor samples a number of water outlets–fountains, sinks–in each school. It adds all the samples together and then reports what percentage of those samples contained more than 15.5 ppb levels of lead.
So, in 2014-2015, the contractor took 655 samples. Of those, 84.73 percent were below the 15.5 ppb standard–and so 15.27 percent were above the level considered to “exceed” safety levels. The data also show that 15 samples (2.29 percent) were above 100 ppb and seven samples (1.07 percent) were above 500 ppb, or more than 30 times above levels considered safe by the federal government.
The NPS document also listed the schools that tested in “exceedance” for two years in a row–the tested levels were above the unsafe standard–in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
Those schools were :
: · Barringer High School · Benjamin Franklin School · Berliner School · Branch Brook School · Camden Street Middle School · Carver School · Cleveland School · Ivy Hill School · John F. Kennedy School · Louise A. Spencer School · Luis Munoz Marin School · Maple Avenue Annex · Miller Street School Building · New Jersey Regional Day School · Newark Leadership Academy · Newton School · Old First Avenue/Old Elliott Annex · Old Speedway School · Ridge Street School (K-1 Annex) · Ridge Street School (Main Building) · Roberto Clemente School · South Seventeenth Street School · South Street – Weequahic High School–West Side High School.
State-appointed superintendent Christopher Cerf Wednesday night told an angry crowd of parents, teachers and students that the 2012-2016 results would be posted on the website “early Thursday morning.”
This site was able to obtain them early Thursday evening.
Cerf also offered an average of “about 12 percent” over the four years, which hides the spikes of more than 13 percent in 2013-2014 and 15.27 percent in 2014-2015.
What’s interesting to note is that, at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, central office administrators sent out a memorandum indicating that the district would try to cope with lead contamination, not by assuring all new filters at every site, but a “flushing” regime that counted on children to run fountains for a long time before drinking.
The large hike in indents of contamination between the 2013-2014 school year and the following year suggests the “flushing” regime was not very successful.
The district provided these links for obtaining the information:
- For a summary page of the historical data the district is posting, please see this link:
- For a link to the data itself, please see this link:
- For the sampling plan that the district will be conducting in cooperation with the DEP, please see this link: