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Water Testing At Homer Plessy Community School Shows Lead At Levels State Considers Safe

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A seventh-grader's investigation promtped the Orleans Parish School Board to test his school's water for lead.

The Orleans Parish School Board says drinking water at Homer Plessy Community School is safe, according to state guidelines. The school board tested the water after a seventh-grade student found traces of lead using an at-home test kit.

Homer Plessy seventh grader Bernard "Berr" Voss-Potts used a test strip to check a water fountain for lead at his school earlier this month, and it came back positive. That prompted the Orleans Parish School Board to install water filters at the school several days later. The school board has been working to install water filters at all of its 88 buildings. Voss-Potts' findings moved the school up to the front of the line.

Contractors collected samples from the French Quarter school this week, some of which had been filtered, and some unfiltered. All of the samples came back with lead at levels below the threshold for state action, 15 parts per billion. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no safe level for lead exposure. Without the filters, one water fountain tested as high as 4.5 parts per billion, according to the contractor's report. With the filters, lead was not detectable in any sample.

In an emailed statement, the Orleans Parish school board said the testing "demonstrates that these [filtration] systems are performing as designed and will continue to protect students from any potential change of lead levels in the drinking water in the future."

The Orleans Parish School Board is working to install water filters in all of its school buildings, at a rate of 2-3 schools per week. The district says it should be finished by the fall. That will make about three years since the district promised to take "proactive" steps to protect students from possible lead in school water. That promise for proactive action has been marked by several setbacks.

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