Testimony of Audrey Williams at Lead Hearing
Testimony of Audrey Williams
Intergovernmental Relations & School Support Manager
DC Public Charter School Board
DC Council Committee on Education
June 22, 2016
Good morning Chairman Grosso, Councilmember Cheh and members of the Education Committee. My name is Audrey Williams, and I am the Intergovernmental Relations and School Support Manager at the DC Public Charter School Board, and have been coordinating our work to address the issue of lead in schools’ water supply. I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to speak about our progress.
The health and safety of our students is our highest priority. We were alarmed, much as you were, to hear of reports earlier this year about the high levels of lead in the water supply in schools in large cities such as Flint and Newark. That is why we took the initiative in March to spend a portion of our reserve funds to rapidly test all public charter schools for lead in the District, except those with documentation that their building had already been thoroughly tested.
I am pleased to report that the vast majority of public charter campuses, 95, do not have levels of lead in their water that exceeded the EPA standard of 15 parts per billion. Of the remaining schools, 20 have a few sources (e.g. a sink or fountain) that have elevated levels of lead. That’s 2.3 percent of the 2,727 devices tested. Nine of those 20 schools have retested with no actionable lead levels.
Each of these schools took immediate steps to protect their students and staff by shutting off the water sources that tested too high in lead and by substituting alternate water sources. Fortunately, many of the water sources that have tested positive are non-potable sources such as an outside spigot, a utility source or science labs that are not being used. Schools with elevated levels have been instructed to have the water sources repaired or filters added and inform their parents immediately upon receiving the results.
All the schools with actionable levels of lead have either taken those sources out of service, repaired the pipes or are installing filters. Some of those repairs are being done during the summer as those sections of their buildings are being renovated.
Overall, it costs between $80,000 and $100,000 to test the 2,727 devices. Going forward, we look to work with schools, the Council and the Administration to set appropriate standards for testing -- and to find a way to mitigate the huge costs associated with periodic testing and adding filters, that does not put an undue burden on public charter school budgets.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.