PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — Prince George's County Public Schools may have a problem with their water and 7 ON YOUR SIDE I-Team Investigator Scott Taylor has discovered many parents had no idea until now.
The I-Team has uncovered Prince George's County Public Schools hasn’t completed a system-wide test of drinking water since 2009, even though the school district has been aware of on-going high levels of lead in the water since 2004.
Right now, 88 school buildings have their water sources shut off. Students and teachers have been drinking bottled water.
7 ON YOUR SIDE originally asked for an on-camera interview with PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell, but we were able to sit down with the Director of Building Services Sam Stefanelli instead.
Taylor: "Do you have water fountains or bubblers right now in your school district that kids are drinking?"
Taylor: "And when were those last tested? 2009?"
Taylor: "How do you know that water is safe to drink if you haven't tested it since 2009?"
Stefanelli: "We only know what the tests from 2004 to 2009 showed us."
Taylor: "So you don't know if those levels have changed since 2009?"
Stefanelli: "No, I don't."
Taylor: "And kids are still drinking that water?"
The I-Team obtained a 2004 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, along with school district documents, that reveal 2,600 water sources were tested in 2004 and 90 percent came back at or above the EPA'S 20 parts per billion recommended lead level. A new Water Quality Program replaced or valved off fixtures.
Five years later, 30 percent of more than 17,000 water sources were at or above the EPA's lead-levels. Again, fixtures replaced. Then, 51 schools started using bottled water.
"I'm confident the kids have safe drinking water,” Sam Stefanelli told Taylor.
District wide, as far as School Officials can tell ABC7 News, parents were never notified about past year's lead levels until this year.
"Do you think these schools are safe to be drinking their water?" Taylor asked Khadija Bowen, a parent whose child attends public school in the county.
"No, not at all,” Bowen said.
Bowen says she is going to get her daughter's blood tested.
Last October, 45 classroom and bathroom sinks tested above EPA guidelines at Glenridge Elementary.
Bowen: "I shouldn't have to fight for this."
Taylor: "Clean water?"
Bowen: "I shouldn't have to be writing my Congressman, my Governor, my School Board, Superintendent. I shouldn't have to be doing that to be able to send my child to school and be okay with the fact her water is clean."
Theodora Scarato another concerned parent, has dedicated an entire blog to this issue.
"Why allow any level of lead in the water?” Scarato said. “It needs to be completely cleaned up.”
Up until the year, the school district delayed the final phase of its Water Quality Program. Now, after the I-Team started asking tough questions, all water sources will be tested this Spring.
"So you could have dangerous levels right now in your district that are being swallowed up every day by your students and staff and you have no idea because you haven't done testing since 2009? That's a possibility, right?" Taylor asked Stefanelli.
"I guess that is a possibility,” Stefanelli said.
Some parents tell 7 ON YOUR SIDE that their kids will continue to drink bottled water in the school district until they graduate from high school.
All the School District’s lead testing results and documents given to the I-Team from the School District including EPA reports have been posted below.