Some city schools haven't closed fountains with lead-tainted water

Beilenson plans to test pupils for contamination

April 11, 2003|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

After nearly two months of checking schools to see if water fountains are turned off and that students aren't drinking from sinks, the city's top health official said yesterday that he is still finding some that have not complied.

Each time a school violates city Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson's February order to shut off drinking fountains and label hand sinks "for hand washing only," the school is fined $100.

Since March, Beilenson has issued school fines totaling $11,600.

Yesterday, Health Department officials were in the process of checking 15 schools that had not met the regulations in Beilenson's order, despite repeated inspections.

"Each time we were going out with school officials [to inspect], and verbally we were being told that it was being done," Beilenson said. "So I don't understand how it's still not done."

But Beilenson said that he thinks the school system is getting close to being in full compliance.

"I'm actually quite optimistic that we can eliminate the problem in the schools' drinking water," he said.

Beilenson's order occurred after the discovery that fountains with high lead levels were still dispensing water, a decade after they were ordered shut off.

About half of the violations have been for fountains still in operation.

After spring break this month, Beilenson will begin testing children for possible lead contamination at the elementary schools with the highest levels of lead in the drinking water, as reflected in a report from the early 1990s.

The preliminary list of schools is:

Langston Hughes, City Springs, Tench Tilghman, General Wolfe, Dr. Rayner Browne, Harford Heights, Margaret Brent, Samuel F. B. Morse, La- fayette, Maree Garnett Farring, Pimlico, Holabird, Callaway, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick elementaries.

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