Following news reports that began appearing in local media in recent months about high levels of lead in the drinking water in the public schools of Newark and other New Jersey municipalities, The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, directed that the five Catholic elementary schools and three Catholic high schools in the City of Newark cease using tap water while testing could be conducted, and use only bottled water for drinking or cooking purposes. The Archdiocese also implemented, ahead of any state mandate, a monitoring program of the water in those buildings.
Data collected to date on the Newark school sites indicate that the level of lead in the water is safe in over 95 percent of all waterspouts tested. Even with this significant positive result, the Archdiocese is maintaining caution and is still requiring that the schools and parents continue to make use of bottled water until all outlets are proven to be 100 percent safe. The results of all tests are being provided to parents as part of regular school communications.
In addition, Archbishop Myers has also directed that monitoring and testing of drinking water is to be expanded to all of the 67 Catholic elementary schools and 29 Catholic high schools within the four counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union. The first phase of this expanded monitoring will involve testing of some 10 outlets in each school location at a state-certified laboratory. Any positive readings will be remedied immediately.
If all ten results come back at safe levels, the next sampling will then be scheduled to coincide with the time of the next asbestos inspection (within six months) at the schools. The sample records will be archived in a manner similar to the AHERA plan used to document asbestos inspections.
Every Archdiocesan school must have the water tested in a systematic fashion using licensed engineers and laboratories certified by the state. While state law and directives are evolving on an almost daily basis, the Archdiocese is looking for all of the schools within it to have some sampling performed prior to opening this September.
Although the emphasis on this project is the long-term safety of drinking water for students, Archbishop Myers has also encouraged pastors within the Archdiocese to consider having the water checked in parishes, rectories and parish centers.
There are 67 elementary schools and 29 high schools operating within the Archdiocese of Newark, serving 17,775 students in Pre-kindergarten through Grade 8, and 12,787 students in Grades 9-12.