Jackson school district alerts community to water issues

JACKSON – The superintendent of schools in the Jackson School District has notified residents that elevated levels of lead were found in water drinking outlets at four schools in the township.

In a March 23 letter, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco said elevated levels of lead were found in the Goetz Middle School on Patterson Road, the Johnson Elementary School on Larsen Road, the Crawford-Rodriguez Elementary School on Larsen Road and Jackson Liberty High School on North Hope Chapel Road.

The district’s administration building on Don Connor Boulevard also had elevated levels of lead in its water outlets, according to the letter.

Genco wrote, “Our school system is committed to protecting the health of our students and staff. To protect our community and to be in compliance with Department of Education regulations, the district tested our schools’ drinking water for lead.

“In accordance with Department of Education regulations, the district is implementing immediate remedial measures for any drinking water outlet with a result greater than the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

“This includes turning off the outlet unless it is determined the location must remain on for non-drinking purposes. In these cases, a ‘Do Not Drink – Safe for Hand Washing Only’ sign will be posted.

“Following instructions given in technical guidance developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, we completed a plumbing profile for each building in the school district.

“Through this effort, we identified and tested all drinking water and food preparation outlets. Of the 221 samples taken on March 11, all but 17 tested below the lead action level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for lead in drinking water (15 ppb),” Genco wrote.

According to the letter, an elevated level of lead in drinking water is most dangerous for pregnant women, infants and children under 6.

Genco wrote that lead “can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Exposure to high levels of lead during pregnancy contributes to low birth weight and developmental delays in infants.

“In young children, lead exposure can lower intelligence quotient levels, affect hearing, reduce attention span and hurt school performance. At very high levels, lead can even cause brain damage,” he wrote.

The test results are available in the school district’s central office for inspection by the public, including students, teachers, other school personnel and parents, and may be viewed between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The full test results are also available at www.jacksonsd.org. Select “Departments and Programs” and then “Facilities Department” to view the test results.

Allison Erwin, coordinator of communications and technology for the Jackson School District, said, “Just like the many districts throughout the state who received results similar to those in Jackson, any time we as school administrators hear about test results that are anything but perfect, it can be a cause for concern.

“However, we believe our quick actions to close down the affected areas and our plan for a permanent solution should make our parents feel better about the findings.

“We posted all results on our website so parents and staff can review all the data if they wish. We hope reviewing the full information will help them understand that the vast majority of sites tested were below state levels and that even in areas that tested positive, levels were similar to other tests throughout the state.

“It is also important to understand that even though one location, the point of entry site at the Crawford-Rodriguez Elementary School, tested high, that is because it is a location that is a stagnant pipe that comes off the main supply line to a dead end T. Nowhere else in that school tested above the legal limits,” Erwin said.