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Rockland School Leaders Support State-Mandated Lead Water Tests

North Rockland school district Superintendent Ileana Eckert spoke about lead testing in schools on Aug. 2.
North Rockland school district Superintendent Ileana Eckert spoke about lead testing in schools on Aug. 2. Photo Credit: Dylan Wrixon

New York State Sen. David Carlucci and a host of education and health experts from across Rockland County met Tuesday to discuss the importance of legislation that would require school districts to meet stricter guidelines when testing drinking water for contamination.

The issue of water contamination has been in the national spotlight since earlier this year when the severity of lead contamination in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, became widely known.

Locally, water sources in seven of eight Rockland school districts have been tested for lead contamination with at least one, the Clarkstown school district, experiencing elevated lead levels that forced the closure of dozens of water sources like water fountains .

According to Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester), the remaining school district, East Ramapo, is to complete its lead testing once its students have returned to class in September.

Lead exposure can occur when service pipes containing lead corrode. According to medical professionals, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and troubles with a child’s cognitive abilities. Lead can have a far more serious impact on children because children absorb lead more quickly than adults.

Carlucci said that federal laws governing lead in drinking water do not include required guidelines for testing water contamination in schools. Noting that lawmakers statewide have voiced concern over aging infrastructure – which includes aging schools facilities – Carlucci said the need for legislation to “fix our monitoring and reporting system for lead in water supplies” is of vital importance.

The state senator was joined by Rockland BOCES Chief Operating Officer Mary Jean Marsico, Health and Safety Division Director John Gulino, North Rockland Central School District Superintendent Ileana Eckert and South Orangetown School Superintendent Robert Pritchard, who each echoed Carlucci’s opinion on the issue.

"I thank Sen. Carlucci and his colleagues in Albany for realizing that state funding must be attached to this legislation. Rockland BOCES and our component school districts are saddled with too many unfunded state mandates already. Adding another cost would have been disastrous,” Marsico said. “We look forward to Governor Cuomo’s signature on this bill, which will protect students and staff for years to come."

Eckert agreed, adding that the issue was one on which the state government needed to play a leading role.

“Lead contamination in the water is something that can and should be prevented and the New York State Legislature is leading the way to make certain this issue is resolved,” she said.

While calling for school districts to be required to at least test their water for lead and other contaminants “periodically,” Carlucci said he was confident Gov. Andrew Cuomo would sign a bill that earlier this year was passed by the state Legislature.

“I will continue to advocate and work with my colleagues on legislation to ensure our schools' water is tested in order to be sure that our students are safe,” Carlucci said.

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