Mar 31, 2003
The health commissioner of Baltimore City began fining the city school system $100 per day per school for maintaining water fountains tainted with levels of lead far above the EPA standards. So far, more than 40 schools were assessed the fines.
Lead has been known for decades to affect the normal development of the brain. Young children are very susceptible to lead poisoning. Yet most of the schools being fined in early March were elementary schools.
How long had the city school system known there were toxic levels of lead in the drinking water? More than TEN years! The system had ignored an engineering report delivered in 1992, just as it ignored the health commissioner's warnings, which he began delivering last year.
On March 20, the director of school facilities, Pradeep Dixit, in office for only half of the time the problem was known, was fired. A scapegoat had been found. Yet Dixit was a small fry compared to all those really responsible.
Who has contributed to permanent damage to all the children who went through these schools over 10 years? Every single superintendent: Walter Amprey from 1991 to 1997; Robert Schiller from 1997 to 1998; Robert Booker from 1998 to 2000; Carmen Russo from 2000 to the present. And in that same period of time, Kurt Schmoke was mayor for 12 years, happily taking credit in his administration for reducing the lead paint poisoning of Baltimore children, as does the present administration under Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Where were these leaders who pretended concern for Baltimore's children during all the years the school system continued to poison children with water fountains? Nowhere to be found.