Dear Dr. Maxwell,
I read with interest the press release that the county is going to launch the final phase of the water quality program and I would like to tell you how thankful I am that the district is finally dealing with this very important problem.
However there is no safe level of lead for children and I am very concerned that the county is still allowing lead levels up to 20 ppb in classroom water sources as stated in the press materials sent out yesterday.
I was reading your press release entitled, “PGCPS TO LAUNCH FINAL PHASE OF WATER QUALITY PROGRAM” and had some very specific questions for you in regards to some of the statements that have been made and I appreciate in advance your clarification and answers to each of these questions:
- The press release states that “We are confident that our buildings have safe drinking water and we want the public to have no doubt.” Could you please clarify how you are confident that the buildings have safe drinking water because when I took a look at the testing over the last six years that have been done in the schools I saw that there were several schools that have lead levels that range anywhere from 5 to 20 PPB. I understand from the documents that you sent me that the water fountains that were turned off are those that are over 20 ppm. So are there fountains on which are allowing lead levels that are just under the EPA threshold but that clearly a contaminated with lead? As you are aware because it has been six years since some of these tests have been done it is very possible that water sources that have a level of 13 could now be at 22. We simply don't know. Please clarify how you know that the drinking water is safe.
- The press release states that, “PGCPS will begin installing filtered water fountains this summer at all schools.” I would like to ask what you are doing now to ensure the children have access to healthy water. I have written several times and you have stated that they are given bottled water to the children but when I and parents ask specifically -details about this- they are not given answers. For example, is water available in the classroom? Does a child need to go all the way down to the front office to get the water? Can you please describe for each school exactly how the children are provided available water and how many water bottles they are allowed to have during the day? Please also share how teachers and staff are being provided clean water.
- Your press release states that, “There are no federal or state mandates for annual testing.” Yes that is true and it is shameful that this country does not have a system in place so that parents can be assured that the water is safe. I would like to point out that there is a Maryland Bill calling for regular water testing in the state. I would like to ask that you support this bill and contribute to the discussion and share with our state legislators the challenges that the county is facing right now and the need for state and federal support. Please tell me how you are supporting this Bill. Please share how you can support additional legislation in regards to to the issue of lead poisoning in schools.
- The water quality page states that “5,238 (approximately 30%) found to be at or above the 20 ppb EPA action level.” There seems to be some confusion which I would like to get clarity on. In one letter you wrote me stating that you were using the EPA action level of 15 ppb. In yet another letter you wrote me that you were using the action letter of 20 ppb. I have that detailed in full here. So I guess my question is which lead contaminant action level have you been using for the last half decade? 15 or 20 ppb? Are water taps which have under 20 ppb still allowed to be on in the Prince George’s County school system? If so why?
- The water quality page states that “During the construction of new schools, the water will be tested at the property line and from all drinking water sources. Any water that tests above 10 parts per billion (ppb) will be remediated.” Again, I would like to point out that the EPA action level is 15 ppb. However this is not a safe amount of lead in the water and it is my understanding that anything over one part per billion is unsafe for children because there is no safe level of lead for children. Please read the American Academy of Pediatrics Report which states how 0 ppb is the health standard. Can you please explain why you are not using zero as the acceptable level of lead to be allowed in our children's classrooms?
- The water quality page shares the 2004 testing that was done but no where do I see the 2008 through 2016 testing that was done. Here it is: 2011 -2012 PGCPS Lead Level testing, PGCPS Lead Testing Done in 2014, PGCPS Lead Testing of Ardmore in 2015,, PGCPS Lead Testing Done in 2010, PGCPS Lead Testing Done in 2008 Could you please ensure these test results are posted on that webpage - just as you posted the 2004 lead test results- so parents and teachers have access to it. Many parents are writing me asking me for the lead test in their school and the county has a responsibility to post ALL the testing that has been done.
- Your press release states that, “Results from the comprehensive testing will be shared when completed.” Thank you. This is very important. I am writing asking that you send to each parent the testing that has been done in the past at their child's school and clarify specifically what was done in each school so that there is full transparency in this process. I am just a mom and should not be responsible for sending parents across the county the school water testing results. This is PGCPS responsibility. Please post it publicly so each parent can have easy acess to it and not have to sort through thousands of pages. Parents deserve transparency and information pertaining to their child’s health. These parents should be provided information immediately and not have it treated as a public information request and have it take a month as has happened to me.
- Your press release states that “While we know our drinking water is safe, we also know that some older buildings may have lead sources within their private plumbing systems. Our tests will help PGCPS identify issues within schools’ plumbing systems.” This sentence is a little bit confusing because if you think the drinking water is safe then why are you saying that some older buildings may have a lead sources? Please be very clear with the parents teachers and staff that the water is not safe because it has not been tested in over half a decade.
- There are some inaccuracies in the PGCPS ARDMORE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Frequently Asked Questions that need to be fixed. You have statement that reads, “Almost all lead poisoning cases stem from exposure to lead based paint and lead in soil ingestion and not from drinking water with a lead content. Based on this information the need for lead testing is not recommended.”
This is absolutely false. Children can be lead poisoned by water contaminated with lead and no amount of lead is safe for children so I am quite shocked to read such a statement. I would like you to please have an expert from the Department of Health review your FAQ sheet and ensure accuracy. This document also states that “based on this information the need for lead testing is not recommended” and that again is false. Clearly there is a water contamination problem in Ardmore or else you would not be keeping all the faucets off? Please revise your FAQS for parents so that they reflect accurately the reality that no amount of lead is safe for children. Yes children can be lead poisoned by the water . Please clarify to me what you are going to be doing to remedy such statements which are made on the frequently asked questions sheet that you have posted.
10. Why are you not telling the parents that they can go to their pediatrician to get a lead test if the water in their school has been found to have a high lead level? This seems important. In Washington DC this is what the school system did. The school district materials are making it seem like the water is safe when the water is clearly not safe. Please explain why you are not fully informing parents of their school water test results and that they can and should consult their pediatrician with such results. The pediatricians will need to have the information on the lead tests results to know the best way to address any parent concerns.
Please read the following report which states that no amount of lead is safe.
I look forward to the answers to these questions.
Thank you very much,
Letter sent on March 30, 2017