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D.C. Public Schools is providing bottled water to students and staff at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Congress Heights due to “sediment” found in water at the school this past weekend.
Trayon White, a candidate for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. Council, brought attention to the problem on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon:
— Trayon White (@trayonwhite) April 26, 2016
In a reply, DCPS’ official account posted a screenshot of its operations team’s response to the report. It indicated that the school’s water is being tested and drinking sources would reopen once deemed potable:
— DC Public Schools (@dcpublicschools) April 26, 2016
City Desk has reached out to White and DCPS for comment.
At a recent Council oversight hearing, school officials admitted that water at three other D.C. schools had tested positive for elevated levels of lead, leading At-Large Councilmember and Education Committee Chair David Grosso to set a follow-up session on school water for June. Today and next week, the Department of Energy & Environment will test the schools’ students for lead, Hill Rag reports.
According to enrollment portal My School D.C., King Elementary School, as it’s also known, had just under 400 students in the 2014-15 academic year; 100 percent were recorded as black or non-Hispanic.
Update 11:30 a.m.: A DCPS spokesperson said parents have been “consistently notified” of the situation since Friday, when the school system discovered low water pressure at King Elementary and called D.C.’s Department of General Services to restore it. But over the weekend, the spokesperson added, “school staff noticed a discoloration of the water”; although DGS flushed the water system on Sunday, “a faint discoloration” remained on Monday morning. At that point, DGS again flushed the system, she explained.
“Hand washing and flushing was able to take place when school reconvened on Monday,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, hand sanitizer was supplied to the school for use. We also updated parents letting them know of the precautionary water testing. By Monday afternoon, the water ran clear.”
But White, who says he didn’t visit the school and was contacted by parents in Ward 8, says some were unclear on the details of the situation. He adds that a parent sent him the picture he posted on Twitter.
“They knew something was going on with the water on Friday, by word of mouth, but they didn’t know what DCPS was going to do about it,” White says. “We have a lot of old buildings our children [east of the Anacostia river] are learning [in] when these things happen. My concern is that these are clean, safe, and healthy.”
Update 3:35 p.m.: The DCPS spokesperson followed-up to add that the discoloration was caused by “a city water issue…not a school-based issue.” Asked to comment, a spokesperson for D.C. Water explained that on Friday evening, the agency was routinely flushing water mains around MLK Elementary. “In this case, it appears the high flow of the water caused a temporary discoloring of the water in the school when service was restored,” he said, adding that “the issued caused by the flushing appears to have been resolved.”
D.C. Water flushes about half of the District’s water mains each year for maintenance, the spokesperson said. He was “not aware of any other complaints near the school.”
Update, April 28: The DCPS spokesperson confirms that after testing, no contaminants were found in MLK’s water; it can be consumed again.