A local nonprofit law firm is pushing Dayton area schools to test their water for lead after getting little response to information requests sent in March and July.
Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) sent surveys to 53 charter, Catholic and private schools plus the Dayton Public School district, and only seven schools plus DPS responded with information that they had done testing.
Attorney Ellis Jacobs of ABLE said the schools that did respond identified only small, easily remedied issues, but his concern is that many schools may not have done testing at all.
“Children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning, and it can have devastating effects on their development,” Jacobs said. “They can be exposed to lead through drinking water, and the most recent example of this happening on a mass scale was in Flint, Mich.”
But Flint’s well-publicized problems are not the only case. Media reports just in the last month have spotlighted schools in San Francisco and Tucson, Ariz., that had lead levels above the allowed 15 parts per billion.
Officials from Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County said paint dust and paint chips, not water, are the primary source of child lead exposure in this area, but no lead level in the blood is safe.
Tom Hut, supervisor of the bureau of special services for Public Health, said his agency worked with Huber Heights schools in summer 2016, when that district found elevated lead levels in a few buildings.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools test for lead in water, but Hut said there is no federal or state law requiring them to do so. He said the test for lead in water costs only about $12 per faucet, making it affordable to test entire schools and districts.
Dayton teachers union President David Romick said he was pleased that DPS was among those that did respond to ABLE’s request, testing a sampling of six schools across the district.
“There is a track record in DPS of stepping up to the plate in terms of student safety,” Romick said, urging all schools to follow suit. “Parents, community members, please contact (your schools) and encourage them to have their water tested and share those results, so we can all have peace of mind about the health and well-being of our children.”