Charlie Kratovil, the award-winning journalist running for Mayor of New Brunswick, has made a name for himself investigating problems with the drinking water in his city. Now, his latest scoop has him concerned for public school children and outraged at Board of Education officials.
According to a report released yesterday, excessive levels of lead were found in water samples taken from four different city schools in late June and early July: Paul Robeson Community School, McKinley Community School, New Brunswick Middle School and New Brunswick High School. One reading was as high as 1110 parts per billion, or 74 times the legal limit for lead contamination, but the results were not shared with the public until yesterday.
“This information should have been shared with the public immediately,” said Kratovil. “It was wrong to keep this disturbing report under wraps for over a month, and it is disingenuous to pretend that these results were anything other than cause for serious concern.”
This morning, Charlie published an article outlining and analyzing the results and putting them in the context of several misleading statements made by a school district official at the August 21 Board of Education meeting, which was captured on video by New Brunswick Today.
At that meeting, Charlie unsuccessfully requested the results of the district’s annual water testing, only to be told they were “very good” and “really good” by Frank LoDolce, the district’s head of facilities. Even as the results were finally released yesterday, Superintendent Aubrey Johnson described them as “extremely favorable.”
LoDolce had promised those results would be published on the district website prior to the start of the school year, but the district missed that deadline by a full week.
It wasn’t until yesterday during his weekly appearance on WCTC’s “The Tommy G Show” that Charlie first learned the results had finally been posted online. Their release came after an article in New Brunswick Today pointed out the missed deadline, and Charlie filed an OPRA request seeking a copy of the report.
What was depicted in the results was far from “very good” or “really good.” In fact, these were the worst lead testing results received by the district in recent years, with 29 different water sources, almost 9% of those tested, found to exceed the action limit for lead.
“New Brunswick’s parents, students, faculty and staff deserve much better than this. Simply put, they deserve the truth,” said Kratovil, who won two awards from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of “Watergate,” a scandal that saw a longtime city worker admit to public corruption for failing to notify authorities about problems with the city’s drinking water.
“When I’m elected, I will put an end to this cover-up culture once and for all. Under my leadership, the New Brunswick Water Utility will conduct regular testing of the drinking water in all school facilities and promptly release the results to the public without delay.”
While some of the problems at the tainted faucets may have been rectified prior to a second round of testing, Charlie believes the district still owes the public a thorough explanation of what actions they’ve taken to address the problems. He also wants the district to offer blood tests for students who may have been exposed to extremely high levels of lead.
Thus far, officials have given no details of any remediation efforts undertaken and have not specified if any water sources were taken out of service. At least two locations, one at the Robeson School and one at NBMS, showed excessive lead levels in both rounds of testing. Additionally, two individual test results from NBHS appear to be missing from the report on the second round of testing without explanation.
Charlie is encouraging anyone who shares his concerns to attend the New Brunswick Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, September 18 at 7pm in the auditorium of NBHS, located at 1000 Somerset Street.