Following complaints and safety concerns in Ithaca’s public schools last week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on both the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress to help evaluate and address the presence of lead in the district’s water supply.
“I am calling on the federal EPA to step up to the plate and get all hands on deck to help the community test this water … and move forward with ways to remediate this situation,” Schumer said in a press release Friday. “We need the EPA inspectors and lead experts here, on the ground, as soon as possible to work with the school district to develop a plan and prevent any future contamination.”
Ithaca superintendent Luvelle Brown — who said Wednesday’s water shut-off was motivated by an “abundance of caution” — welcomed the intervention of the government on the state and national level.
“The Ithaca City School District is committed to working diligently to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Brown said. “We thank Senator Schumer for his support and advocacy on our behalf, and we welcome federal health expertise to the area to work collaboratively with the school district to remedy this situation.”
Schumer stressed that New York state deserves Congressional legislation to expedite the process of purifying the water.
“Lead poisoning is an irreversible, preventable tragedy that robs many families and children of their future,” Schumer said. “We need to do everything we can to eliminate this hazardous lead from upstate New York homes, which are vulnerable because so many were built before 1978 when lead paint was banned.”
The threat to children in Ithaca’s school system is a cause for concern and demands immediate action, Schumer said in the press release.
“According to the National Institutes of Health, lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children’s developing nerves and brains,” the release stated. “That is why it is particularly concerning this lead-water issue is occurring within a school system, and underscores the need for the EPA to lend its expertise wherever it can.”
In an attempt to tackle the problem head-on, Schumer announced a “two-pronged plan” which he projects will sweep across upstate New York.
The plan includes a $3,000 tax cut that businesses could receive if they eradicate objects with lead present and a $1,000 tax cut to clean water that has already been contaminated. The senator stressed that it is in the state’s financial interest to alleviate these threats to public health.
“Addressing these housing-related health hazards makes economic sense, as every $1 spent to reduce home lead hazards provides a benefit of at least $17,” the release said.