Congresswoman Elaine Luria Seeks Answers on Lead Found in Drinking Water at Virginia Beach City Public Schools
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) today sent a letter to top education and city officials in Virginia Beach regarding the presence of lead in drinking water in local schools, the delay in notifying the public, and the distribution of information that may have created a false sense of safety.
Addressed to VBCPS Superintendent Aaron Spence, the letter is in response to school system and media disclosures showing that at least 70 instances of elevated lead levels were found at local schools. It also highlights the lapse in the time – approximately seven weeks – between the school system learning of the elevated lead levels and public disclosure of that information.
“The VBCPS website states that the delay in notification was due to the need to secure the impacted sites and develop a communications strategy. Unfortunately, it fails to explain why the sites could not have been secured after a public announcement,” Congresswoman Luria wrote. “I am troubled that developing a communications strategy was prioritized over providing parents vital information related to the health of their children.”
Congresswoman Luria also expresses concern about information on the VBCPS website indicating that “it is important to note that the Environmental Protection Agency actionable level of 15 ppb [parts per billion] of lead in water is markedly below levels that would pose a risk to children.” In fact, a 2016 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that water fountains in schools have lead levels below 1 ppb.
In the letter, Congresswoman Luria asks if VBCPS will provide voluntary blood testing for lead concentration to all children, faculty, and staff attending any affected schools. She also asks if the school system will commit to notifying these groups and the public within 24 hours of any new finding.
Congresswoman Luria asks Superintendent Spence for a written response by December 6 and that school officials provide public access to the raw data of the lead testing by Dec. 13 so that independent toxicologists and other physicians and scientists can verify the accuracy of the tests and determine that no other sites have been erroneously identified as below actionable levels.
VBCPS School Board Chair Beverly M. Anderson, Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer, and Virginia Beach Acting City Manager Tom Leahy also received a copy of the letter to Superintendent Spence.
The full letter can be found here.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.