Lead testing results have quickly become a high-profile topic in many Western New York school districts. Public interest increased after a state mandate required all of the state’s 728 public school districts to test possible drinking water sources for lead and report the results. Already, several area districts have found that some of those tested water sources contain lead levels in need of remediation.
Erie 1 BOCES has been busy helping WNY district administrators to navigate these uncharted waters by providing technical support and additional assistance.
Dennis Kwaczala, senior health and safety coordinator with the Erie 1 BOCES, is leading that effort, already working with nearly two dozen Erie County school districts on their water testing plans. He said one early goal has been making sure concerned parents get all of the facts.
“Parents hear ‘lead’ and they just react to it, “he said. “They should be concerned, but you have to look carefully. The letter that districts send home has to list the exceedances in the building. You have to look at that data. They give you the location and what type of fixture it was and the test data. So look at it. Is it drinking fountains? Is it a kitchen?”
He said area districts have generally been diligent and conscientious about meeting the testing requirements, despite difficult deadline pressures and a very specific set of guidelines, including mapping out all of their potable water sources, acquiring testing kits and learning testing protocols to ensure safety and accuracy – all of which his department assisted districts in achieving.
“It was a big logistical challenge and it had to be accurate. Overall, I think the people who took the samples did a great job.”
Kwaczala adds that much more remains to be done. Only now are districts getting results of their middle school and high school testing, which will require a new round of notifications and, where indicated, remediation.
“That’s where we’re going with it next,” he noted. “We’re helping schools address the exceedances… deciding how to remediate them. We’re going to help them figure it out. There are probably going to be a lot of fixtures replaced with lead-free options. We still have a way to go.”
The Erie 1 BOCES Health Management and Safety Risk program provides component school districts with the information needed to develop an understanding of various local, state and federal rules, regulations and laws outlined in the modules contained in the Erie 1 BOCES Health, Safety and Risk Management Service Planning Guide. This is accomplished through newsletters, workshops, and seminars, as well as a maximum of 15 hours of technical assistance in these modules.
Districts seeking assistance with their lead testing and remediation programs can contact Dennis Kwaczala at (716) 821-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. The service has also created an information booklet.