BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — State and local prosecutors are looking into allegations Buffalo Public Schools’ drinking water could be tainted, due to corrupt water testing practices. School officials are also on the alert, and it’s all based on a tip.
That tip came from a retired school engineer, who claims he was involved in the shady water testing nearly five years ago, and cited lead levels in one city school that are nearly 10 times what the EPA considers hazardous.
Alarmed by the tip that the drinking water in Buffalo Public Schools could be tainted — literally and figuratively — by corruption, parents and community leaders met with officials from the school district to get answers and come up with a plan of action.
“It appears, many times when it comes to inner city children, we are considered collateral damage,” Bishop Michael Badger of Urban Think Tank said.
The Urban Think Tank highlighted lead in the water at two Buffalo schools that were well above what are considered “action level,” based on tests taken last year. Lead levels at the Charles Drew Science Magnet, at two locations in the school, reached three times the established threshold.
At School 39, the lead at one of the faucets reached almost 10 times the action level.
“Any lead exposure is bad, but students who have high lead exposure have lifelong consequences, as it relates to their cognitive development,” parent Aymanuel Radford said.
Buffalo school officials said in instances where elevated lead levels are discovered, parents are notified and urged to have their children tested, but that is as far as they can go.
“We can’t mandate for parents to get their children tested,” Interim BPS Superintendent Tonja Williams said. “But we give them the information, we give them where they can get tested, and we strongly encourage it.”
Parents and community leaders have pointed out exposure to lead in paint and water pipes can a have a number of developmental consequences that are hard to turn around.
“Lead cannot be undone,” Sam Radford of We the Parents said. “No amount of lead exposure is safe. We have heard that our children have been exposed to lead in the schools, possibly.”
The parents conceded lead exposure in the schools is just one possibility, because the school district has been replacing lead pipes with new ones, and because children are more apt to come across lead paint at home due to Buffalo’s older housing stock.