Lead remains in THHS water systems

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By Jacqueline Woo and Julia Wojtkowski, Layout Editor and Staff Writer 

Earlier in September, the entire school received a notice regarding inspections that were done to test for lead in the water system at Townsend Harris High School. The notice announced that 6 out of 153 water fixtures that were tested had elevated levels of lead, exceeding the acceptable amount of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

Despite the alarm and confusion raised by this notice, Custodian Gary J. Viola is confident  that “There really never was any lead issue at THHS to begin with.”

“Routine lead testing in drinking water began several years ago. All drinking fountains at THHS were found to be clear for consumption,” Mr. Viola explained. “All water faucets were also clear except for six faucets. These six faucets had slightly elevated levels but are located in service areas that are not accessible to students. Those six faucets and supply piping were removed and replaced with brand new piping and faucets.”

He added, “Going forward, all drinking fountains and faucets are thoroughly flushed after every break in service,” such as after a weekend or a holiday. “We do this as a precaution even though we do not have any lead elevated fixtures in service.”

Mr. Viola also stated that THHS was built in 1995,  long after the use of lead was discontinued in plumbing. He assured students that“ …all drinking, washing and cooking water is totally safe for use. We continue to monitor and flush all potable water fixtures at THHS on a regular basis”

Some students remain concerned about drinking from the water fountains nonetheless.

“When I first heard about it, I was honestly shocked,” said freshman Zarif Rahman. “My friends would always drink from these fountains because they forgot their water at home. I myself depended on these water fountains after a long mile run in gym [class],” he explained.

“I feel like it is a very serious issue that should be dealt with as soon as possible. I am very concerned,” added sophomore Emmily Cipriana.

However, for some, elevated lead levels at THHS is old news. Junior Samantha Lee first heard about lead in the water at the beginning of her freshman year. “My initial reaction was apathetic, but I found it humorous after making jokes about the lead with my friends,” she commented. “Right now, I find it funny that there’s still lead in the water, though I am very concerned.”

Many still steer clear of the water fountains out of  fear that they are contaminated. “I refuse to drink from the school fountains even if I’m dying of thirst. I don’t trust them,” said Samantha.

Zarif expressed that he feels the same way and brings his own water to school to avoid drinking at the water fountains: “We should bring our own water, and we must fight for these problems to be resolved so that they never happen again.”