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Lead detected far above action level in some Broome County schools

BROOME COUNTY (WBNG) — Several school districts across Broome County had lead levels in drinking water  from some of their sinks and drinking fountains far beyond the limit when tested over the past few years.

In 2016 a state law was put in place that required all schools to test their drinking water for lead.

The Broome County Health Department says lead is a real problem in Broome County and this law has implemented some changes for local schools.

“It’s never a bad thing to do more lead testing especially when children are involved,” said Broome County Director of Environmental Health Joshua Phelps.

Phelps said drinking high levels of lead in water is a serious issue especially for children. “You may start to see cognitive issues, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, acting out, hypertension,” he explained.

The concern is that if it goes unnoticed, “As the levels get higher and higher in the blood it can go up to an including death,” said Phelps.

School districts across Broome County began testing in 2016 and since then many reports came back with lead levels far beyond the action level of 15 parts per billion. That’s the number the state set as a guideline. Anything above that number must be remedied.

“Some of the schools in the area are older you know back when they used to use lead solder on plumbing parts,” Phelps told 12 News.

Take Binghamton for example a drinking water report from from September 2018 shows a fountain in the high school was 10 parts per billion over the action level. The report states the fountain was flushed daily to fix the problem.

A more recent report from January 2019, however, shows that same fountain had lead levels at 435 parts per billion–that’s nearly 30 times the limit. “I mean that’s…that’s a high number for sure especially when you reference the action level,” said Phelps.

The report indicates that fountain is now removed from service. There are five other sinks and fountains in the school that also tested above action level. The reports indicate they have all been fixed, removed from service or are flushed daily.

Binghamton Schools declined to speak with us or provide any updates on the lead monitoring in its schools.

New York State Law requires schools to test at least every 5 years.

Phelps said the schools have all been good about testing and fixing problems when lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion.

Chloe Vincente

Chloe Vincente is an Evening News Anchor at 12 News.

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