Fogarty Memorial Elementary issued health violation for elevated lead levels

NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. (WLNE) – In an email sent out to parents Monday evening, the Fogarty Memorial Elementary School revealed high levels of lead had been found in the school’s drinking water between January 1st and June 30th of 2021. 

A report dated June 15, 2021, by Northeast Water Solutions showed four rooms in the school had elevated lead levels ranging from 4.3 – 52.2 PBB (parts per billion). According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the acceptable lead level is 15 PBB. 

“It was very alarming,” said Kassandra Donovan, parent of a child who currently attends the elementary school. “My first call was to his doctor to make sure his lead levels were fine.” 

Despite the results having been reported nearly a year ago, parents were not notified of the elevated levels until Monday, May 23, 2022.

That letter telling parents: “We were required to report these results within 30 days of receiving the results from the laboratory and we failed to do so.” 

The Rhode Island Department of Health confirmed the school received a violation for the failure to report within 24 hours as required. Representatives from the school also attended a compliance meeting with the Dept. of Health before notifying parents. 

“As a parent sending your child to school, you already have so many worries in the back of your head. Like are they going to get hurt at recess? Could this happen, could that happen?” said Donovan. “Because there can be serious effects from lead poisoning, I don’t think that it should just be brushed off. Somebody needs to take accountability for it — they should have done like a Town Hall meeting or something for all the parents.” 

A second parent, Erica Rodi, echoed similar frustration. “This is totally unacceptable. I want to know why I we are knowing now. They are taking no responsibility for this at all. This is just some generic letter and it is totally unacceptable.” 

In a statement sent to ABC 6 News, Superintendent Patricia Dubois said the school “does not believe any of its 427 students and staff were ever at risk,” as the testing was performed at the end of the 2021 school year and corrected by the time doors opened for students in the fall. 

The statement continued:

“The results of the laboratory analysis of the samples, received on June 29, 2021, indicated that two (2) of the monitoring locations demonstrated somewhat elevated lead content in 1st draw samples, with the subsequent flushed samples substantially below the USEPA Action Limit for lead. The results were received after the end of the active school year therefore no students, and a very limited number of staff were present in the school, at that time. The corrosion evaluation was completed and the report issued on December 2, 2021. While this report was being completed the school again demonstrated compliance with the USEPA requirements for lead and copper during the 2nd 6-month 2021 monitoring period.

The RIDOH issuing a Notice of Violation (NOV) is due to the Department including the corrosion evaluation monitoring results, after the fact, into the previously completed and reported Spring 2021 corrosion monitoring (performed in March with timely reporting in April 2021). Because the corrosion evaluation report was not submitted until December 2021, the Department deemed this was a “reporting violation” for the previous Spring reporting period, which ended on June 30th. The inclusion of the separate corrosion evaluation results into the routine lead and copper regulatory reporting is a fairly recent modification of RIDOH reporting policy.

As stated earlier, the regular, required monitoring determined the school was in compliance with RIDOH/USEPA water quality requirements and it is believed that students and staff were not at risk. Following receipt of notification from RIDOH (May 23, 2022) of this reporting violation, the School District made immediate notification to the consumers of the system water.

It should be noted that following the 2017 corrosion evaluation, the School District replaced the larger diameter water transmission piping in the elementary school, in accordance with the consultant recommendations. Although the elementary school continues to demonstrate compliance with the USEPA water quality requirements, this most recent corrosion evaluation recommends additional replacement of aging interior service piping to improve overall water quality. The School District is including these recommended improvements in the next 5-year capital improvement plan, to assure no public health risk occurs.”
Categories: News, Rhode Island