Good afternoon Miner families, teachers, and staff,
Hopefully, you all received the two letters about lead testing that went home in student backpacks on Friday. If not, they are attached to this email. Unfortunately, the information coming from DCPS and DGS (Department of General Services) still leaves a lot of open questions. Here is some additional information we have been able to glean from various sources:
As one of the letters states, in October 2015, lead testing at Miner showed the levels of lead in the two fixtures in room 106 (in the cluster of rooms across the hall from the Early Childhood rooms) were 19 ppb and 20 ppb. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires schools to test drinking water but only requires that a certain number of fixtures be tested (the number depends on the size of the school). For our school size, EPA requires 10 fixtures be tested and that no more than 10 percent of the samples are above 15 ppb. The EPA recommends that action be taken if any one fixture is reading greater than 20 ppb (see link below for EPA report).
So, under EPA regulations, DCPS/DGS was technically not required to take any action after the October 2015 testing. However, DCPS/DGS has a stricter standard – they are supposed to test ALL fixtures at each school and take action for any that read higher than 15 ppb (for reference, one ppb is about one drop of a substance in a swimming pool). So, the fixtures in question were turned off and filters installed. This is one area in which DCPS/DGS exceeds expectations. In the area of communication/transparency, however, their procedures are woefully inadequate.
Lead testing in March 2015 showed a level of 89 ppb in one fixture. It was in the office of our reading instructional coach, also known as the “guided reading room.” We are not sure if students use that fountain/sink at all or if there was any notification given to the school regarding this high reading from last school year -- though, from DGS statements last week at another school, it appears there is NO process for notifying families or the school. This is just one of many questions we have for DCPS/DGS regarding lead testing procedures. Please contact us for our running list of questions/concerns for DCPS/DGS.
More detailed results from the lead testing at Miner from 2013-2015 are summarized below. It is worth noting that 9 other schools had failed fixtures in the 2015-2016 testing period and multiple additional schools had failures in previous years. We are not sure why the Washington Post report from Thursday listed only Miner and two other schools, but possibly it was because our Ward 6 Council member, Charles Allen, has been making noise about this issue and may have listed only the affected Ward 6 schools in his remarks at recent Council hearings.
At a DC Council budget hearing on Friday, April 22, the topic of lead testing was discussed in detail (see link and additional information about the hearing below). This is where parents from Capitol Hill Montessori testified that they were told by DGS officials that there is NO process to notify schools or families of lead testing results. Obviously, this is completely unacceptable – and there was much outrage at the hearing, both from parents and from DC Council members.
If you would like to dig deeper into the details, please contact us for copies of the following information:
We will continue to press DPCS/DGS and we expect to hear much more in the coming days and weeks -- and we will continue to pass along what information we learn. Please do not hesitate to contact us or Assistant Principal Torrence, if you have any questions or suggestions for additional action that you want to see taken.
Miner PTO Co-president
Miner PTO Co-president
Summary of data on Miner and DCPS-wide from Lead in Drinking Water Testing Results
The annual lead testing reports and an FAQ are also posted here:http://dgs.dc.gov/page/water-sampling-results-dc-public-schools. Additionally, a set of questions submitted from Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan are posted on this page.