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State addresses concerns over lead levels in school water

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Several First State schools were told to shut off certain water sources because of increased lead levels. The move comes a full month after Delaware’s Division of Public Health revealed water sampling data.

On Monday night, nearly 300 Delawareans joined lawmakers and state officials for a virtual forum to discuss the issue.

Many community members expressed concern over not only the heightened lead levels, but why the test results weren’t communicated clearly to the public.

Questions were also raised about why it took schools weeks to shut off taps at the 47 schools that contained increased lead levels.

State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown said there was a lack of transparency.

“Parents and families are scared, they're worried. And they feel there is a lack of trust. And when you are working in this space your word is your bond and that’s all you have.”

Minor-Brown said state education officials are owning up to their mistakes.

Secretary of Education Mark Holodick said there was a communication breakdown with school maintenance officials being alerted, but not the school communities at large.

“This is not going to be a flash in the pan. We are now working with the EPA to ensure we get this right and test across the entire state and our schools,” Holodick said.

State health officials add Delaware is not facing a lead crisis on the level seen in Flint, Michigan.

They said drinking water taps with elevated lead levels are no longer operational and testing is ongoing.

State Sen. Sarah McBride said lawmakers could address the issue further when the new session convenes in January.

You can read the report from Delaware Health and Social Services below.

Mark Arehart is an award-winning reporter/producer. Before returning to Delaware, Arehart was a reporter for WKSU and Ideastream Public Media in Northeast Ohio. He previously hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He has worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.