Parents Provided Update on School Water Safeguards

March 23, 2004
Parents, students, and staff of the Montgomery County Public Schools are being informed today [Tuesday, March 23] that more information is being made available to address questions and concerns about elevated levels of lead in school drinking water, including the launching of a new web site with information and links to federal and regional resources.

In a letter today from Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, and Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, county health officer [see link below], parents also were asked to help address worries particularly among children about the safety of school drinking water now that comprehensive safeguards have been implemented.

“We know that the very visible steps we have taken, including warning signs, combined with the heightened media attention on the health risks of lead contamination, may frighten some young children and create anxiety in others,” said Dr. Weast and Dr. Tillman. “Some parents may be worried, too.

“At this time, we ask that parents and families recognize that the drinking water safeguards we have implemented are based on the best medical and environmental science available to address this potential hazard,” they said.

Yesterday, steps were announced to accelerate the testing of a sample of 20 schools to identify what, if any, patterns may be present in the elevated levels of lead already found in some school water samples. Today, Dr. Weast and Dr. Tillman said that, while elevated levels of lead were found in some sources of water, “it is important to note that test results showed that almost all of the water sources in the first three schools were well within the normal standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“However, until further testing is completed, we will continue the precautionary measures instituted in every school,” they said.

Updated information about the progress of the testing and the implementation of drinking water safeguards is being provided continually to parents, in both letters home from the school system and health department and the creation of a new web site. Today's letter is the second joint communiqué in the last five days.

The new web site provides updated school system information and announcements, as well as links to the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Washington Council of Governments, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The sites provide research findings, safety guidelines, and other information about safeguarding sources of drinking water in schools and homes.

The web site is located at the link below.

In today's letter, Dr. Weast and Dr. Tillman also focused on efforts under way in the schools that “reflect the hard work of many people who are very concerned about the wellbeing of students.

“They include building services staff, nurses, teachers, plant operations staff, secretaries, principals, and many others who are working very hard every day to ensure the safety and welfare of children,” Dr. Weast and Dr. Tillman said. “They are helping young people understand what is happening in our schools, and we ask that parents encourage their children to ask questions if they have continued worries about drinking water.”

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