Newark school official: ‘Parents can be confident that our water is safe’

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Officials with the Newark School District say that drinking water inside the city’s schools is safe to drink, as the city deals with its ongoing lead-contamination crisis.

“Parents can be confident that our water is safe,” says Newark Schools business administrator Valerie Wilson.

Three years after 31 Newark schools were put on bottled water amid elevated lead levels, district leaders say that their efforts are working.

"They can be certain that the water in schools is safe for them and that we have taken every precaution to make sure they have safe water,” Wilson says.

All city schools are now back on city water. Fixtures have been replaced or have been fitted with filters. These filters are commercial grade - not the types the city was handing out to homeowners that the EPA found may not be effective.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Newark drinking water crisis
MORE: Newark drinking water situation FAQ

The average age of the schools in Newark is 92 years old – with the oldest school being built in 1849.

“Sixty-seven schools with 8,500 points of service; 988 filters actually servicing 1,200 drinking outlets,” Wilson says.

Some schools still have lead service lines. Wilson says that the district doesn't have the budget to replace all of them. With a limited budget, the district has to undertake a “forensic examination” of the pipes inside of a school building.

"You can have multiple branches off of a point of entry. One branch can be good and another may be tainted. If there's a tainted branch, and we have a good branch, we may run off of that good branch and then replace the source,” says Wilson.

Wilson says that if there is a branch that cannot be fixed, that pipe is shut down and decommissioned. She says that they are constantly testing the water.

"You don't take anything for granted. That you communicate with your population to ensure that everybody knows what's actually happening,” she says.

Wilson says the school district spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year replacing pipes and on testing.

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