Rep. Luria asks why public notice of lead levels took weeks; VB schools superintendent says he’s investigating

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Congresswoman Elaine Luria talked to 10 On Your Side about a letter she sent to the Virginia Beach School System — questioning the lag time between when the division knew about elevated lead levels and when it was released to the public.

On Thursday, the school system responded to her concerns within a few hours of Luria’s news release.

10 On Your Side’s Stephanie Harris continued the coverage of the story.

While the division sent out a response Wednesday evening, Luria said she’s still uncertain why it took a month from detecting the lead levels to informing the public — and whether the information they did release gave parents a false sense of security.

“I know lead is of utmost concern in drinking water; we’ve seen things like in Flint, Michigan with elevated levels of lead and I know its been a very difficult challenge to remediate, ” Luria said.

That’s why Luria is concerned about the lead levels reported in Virginia Beach.

The district reports levels of lead below the “action level” of 15 parts per billion — but standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that’s still too high, advising levels should be below 1 part per billion.

Virginia Beach School Superintendent Aaron Spence stands by the testing results. He said the water lead levels have a low health risk for students and adults.

“I think the message that we want to send and we hope the Congresswoman understands is that nobody has been more concerned about this issue than us.”

Aaron Spence, superintendent for Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Spence said the Environmental Protection Agency and Center for Disease Control have different opinions about guidance on testing.

While Virginia schools are mandated to test the water, there is no clear guidance on how to do it — and no requirement to report it.

Spence said he’d like to see that change.

“I truly believe that Dr. Spence’s staff and, you know, all entities in the Virginia Beach government are coming together to find answers to these questions,” Luria said.

Luria said she welcomes the opportunity to talk with Spence about the gaps and ways to fix them.

“I’m confident we will have clear communication and w’e’re working for the same things, clean clear water in our schools,” Luria said.

As for the month between test results and releasing them to the public, Spence said he released the information within a week of finding out.

He is still trying to figure out why it took so long for the information to get to him.

That, the superintendent said, is being investigated.

Stay with WAVY.com for updates.

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