Living in such an affluent county such as Montgomery County, we seldom think about the necessities that are practically guaranteed everyday, water being one of them. Since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in 2014, water has been thoroughly checked for contaminants, especially in schools. Montgomery County Public Schools has fallen victim in addition to countless other counties throughout America to plumbism, otherwise known as lead poisoning.
In total, of the first 31 schools tested, 12 schools have lead levels higher than the 20 parts per billion mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Eight of those 12 schools are elementary schools: Gaithersburg, New Hampshire Estates, Pine Crest, Rock View, Rolling Terrace, Strathmore, Summit Hall and Veirs Mill. Other schools found to have high lead levels of those 31 schools are Easter, Parkland and Sligo Middle Schools, and Northwood High School. One water fountain at Gaithersburg Elementary School had lead levels as high as 253 parts per billion. But all 31 schools tested had at least one sample with lead concentrations at or above five parts per billion. “It seems like a danger to the development of children to allow this to continue. Schools should fix this immediately before bad things happen to the kids. Think of the kids,” senior Jeffrey Grant said.
Testing for the amount of lead in schools started in February 20 after a Maryland law requires all schools to be tested for lead in their water by July 1, 2018, since the last tests conducted for lead and other dangerous, toxic substances in schools’ water was more than a decade ago. Counties adjacent to Montgomery County have higher standards: Prince George’s County set its lead standard at 10 parts per billion and D.C. schools set their standards at five parts per billion.
The Center for Disease Control states that young children have a higher risk for lead poisoning. It can cause brain damage and nervous system damage, cause learning problems or speaking and hearing problems. For middle and high schoolers, the damage done by lead poisoning is not as detrimental, but the effects are still there. Researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics state in a report that a lead amount higher than one million parts per billion can lead to children becoming aggressive and can impact academic performance. “We’ve known about the dangers of lead since the ‘60s, and science has shown the dangers it poses specifically to children and their development. The county should take more steps to protect their students’ health,” senior Hannah Bruckheim said.
In an article by Bethesda Magazine, the MCPS director of facilities management, James Song, stated that any water fountains or faucets tested that had more than 20 parts per billion would “be taken out of service immediately, replaced, and retested prior to the outlet being returned to services.”
MCPS plans to finish testing of all schools in the county by June 30.