Safe Water In All Public Schools

By Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose 
and First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot

New York City water is of the highest quality, and water in schools is safe for students and staff to drink. There has never been a known instance of lead poisoning from drinking water at city schools. Misinterpreting data and creating panic doesn’t change that fact; it only causes unnecessary alarm.

The City works across agencies to ensure the safety of our water, including conducting over 500,000 tests a year throughout the system and treating the water with orthophosphate, a food-grade additive that coats the pipes and prevents leaching.

Beyond these extensive measures, the DOE is testing every fixture that could potentially be used for drinking in schools. As part of our robust remediation protocol, any drinking or cooking water fixture with results over 15ppb is immediately taken offline and remains offline until it is remediated and tests show that results are under 15ppb. Additionally, schools with even one elevated fixture are placed on a weekly flushing protocol to eliminate water sitting in pipes.

To concerned parents out there: the safety of your child, and every child across New York City is our highest priority.

There is an easy searchable tool on our website where you can learn more, and we continue to update families and school staff throughout the testing process. We send detailed letters home and post lab results on each school’s website. If school communities have additional concerns, we send experts from DOE and DOH to host a meeting and answer questions. Rumors don’t keep our children safe, and we want to make sure the facts are readily accessible.

As the Daily News editorial board wrote, “It takes a while. Our schools are old.” It’s true. We are testing 1,500 buildings and it takes time to get this done right. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve acted thoroughly and aggressively; you can rest assured that drinking water in our schools is safe.

The bottom line is that we provide safe, supportive and inclusive learning environments in every school, and having quality drinking water is an essential part of this.

04/20/2017 UPDATE: The parents of students at PS 289 received a second letter detailing the steps DOE has taken to ensure that all students have access to safe drinking water. You can read both letters below.

This is page 1 of 8 of the recent update letter. You can read it in its entirety here.
This is page 1 of 216 of the original letter of notification. You can read it in its entirety here.