ITHACA, NY – The results of lead testing at Caroline and Enfield schools released last week painted a worrying picture for parents. For Caroline parents, that picture just got a little scarier.

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On Monday, the Ithaca City School District released an update to the results initially posted last week.

Caroline’s initial results, in particular, had a high number of results highlighted in red — 35 out of 91 — indicating they tested above the EPA “action level” for lead concentration (15 ppb, or parts per billion).

With those results providing ample cause for concern, it was easy to miss the fact those results were incomplete. 19 of the water sources in Caroline and one in Enfield had no listed results.

Updated results

The missing results are now included in the report. Of the 19 new results, only 3 tested below the 15 ppb action level.

This brings the total percentage of confirmed lead-contaiminated water sources in Caroline Elementary School up from 38 to 56 percent. Factoring in the new results, over a dozen of the drinking fountains in Caroline have now tested above the EPA-recommended action level.

Worse yet, some of the new results dwarf the originally reported results in terms of lead concentration. The original report’s highest lead level was 550 ppb.

The expanded report includes classroom sinks that tested at 940, 1,000, 2,200 and 5,000 ppb. 5,000 ppb is the level at which the EPA considers water to be “toxic waste,” according to a Washington Post report.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that these classroom sinks are, most likely, not regular sources of drinking water for most students. There’s no risk of contamination via hand washing or other skin contact.

Still, the risk is there. As Marc Edwards, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and noted expert on the topic of lead contamination told The Ithaca Voice in previous article: “One 250 mL drink of water [approximately 8 oz.] at 600 ppb can increase blood lead from 0 to about 2 µg/dL. Three drinks would be expected to put a child over 5 µg/dL.”

ICSD officials could not be reached for comment.

  Updated Caroline Lead Testing Results

(featured photo: Alex from Flickr)

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.