Digital Exclusive: Environmental testing shows three years of worsening conditions in Scranton schools

Digital Exclusive

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Students attending schools in the Scranton School District may have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead and asbestos for several years. According to Attorney General Josh Shapiro administrators knew about the problem, environmental testing results show.

Eyewitness News requested lead and asbestos testing results from 1988 to 2019 and while our request was approved by Chief Compliance Officer Robert Gentilezza, we only received two sets of lead testing results, those from 2016 and 2019. Asbestos testing and abatement results made available to us date back to 2010.

In 2016, a total of 21 water sources, ranging from sinks to water fountains were flagged as meeting or exceeding the lead action level of .015 mg/l.

The highest concentrations of lead were found inside of a McNichols Plaza School room labeled “Miss Molly’s.” Water from that room’s right sink had a concentration of .407 mg/l, over 27 times higher than the lead action level.

McNichols Educational Plaza

Multiple water fountains across the district tested many times higher than the legal amount of lead. A sink in the basement computer room of William Prescott Elementary School had .372 mg/l of lead.

Notably, between the years of 2016 and 2019, the high levels of lead were not abated. In fact, they were only exacerbated.

A water fountain inside of Room 205 of William Prescott Elementary School had .084 mg/l of lead in 2016. A February 22, 2019 test of the same fountain found 3.60 mg/l of lead, an over 4200% increase and a level 240 times higher than the actionable amount.

William Prescott Elementary School

In total, December 2019 testing had found 29 water sources with levels of lead at or above the action level across the school district. This data includes sources at Memorial Stadium which was not included in the 2016 results.

Memorial Stadium

Similarly, in a 2016 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) report, the Scranton School District was told by the testing company to “repair any damage to fittings in chase and boiler room” of the John Adams Elementary School within one year. However a 2016 AHERA report of the same school found that the boiler room still had asbestos in the fittings and was labled a hazard level of 5 out of a possible 7.

Northeast Intermediate School was among the buildings most affected by Asbestos, as 2019 AHERA reports revealed. Several rooms in the 1906 section, especially on the ground floor were labeled as hazard level 6 that year. However, in 2016, acoustical plaster and plaster walls and ceilings were found to contain asbestos in those same locations.

Northeast Intermediate School

In 2016, the school was told to “repair the significantly damage or damaged ACBM [asbestos containing building material] in the building” in no longer than one year. At the time, Jeff Brazil was listed as the Asbestos Program Coordinator for the Scranton School District.

Brazil is now facing multiple felony charges after allegedly failing to act on the knowledge he had about the dangerous conditions inside of the Scranton schools. Former Scranton Superintendent Alexis Hazzouri Kirijan and current Maintenance Supervisor Joseph Slack are also facing charges.

View the full lead testing results by downloading the files below

The latest lead testing results dating up to December of 2019 are available on the Scranton School District website by clicking here.

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