Bad water sickens kids



            Scores of children at P.S. 20, the Bowne School in Flushing, had to be removed for medical treatment after drinking contaminated water on Tuesday, June 1.

            An air conditioner on the roof of a new wing at the school, located at 142-30 Barclay Avenue, was being repaired around noontime. About 1:30 p.m. children began complaining of intestinal distress – prompting Principal Victoria Hart to call 9-1-1, according to Marge Feinberg, a Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson.

            Emergency Medical Service personnel responded and 71 children were sent area hospitals as a precaution, according Fire Department spokesperson Jim Long. Preliminary indications suggest workers caused coolant to enter the school’s water supply.

            Within hours, an “outraged” Assemblymember Grace Meng called for “a full survey on the quality of the drinking water at all New York City public schools as well as provide a full account of the current procedures of how water fountains are determined to be safe.”

Propylene Glycol, a chemical used in anti-freeze and coolants, is the suspected cause. A colorless, syrupy liquid that is usually dyed red or green for industrial use, it is mildly toxic when ingested in large amounts, according to material safety data sheets.

In trace quantities, it is used to help dissolve medicines and “moisturize” lotions, cosmetics and tobacco products. First aid measures for ingestion are to give a conscious victim milk or water to dilute the chemical.

            Reports indicate that the elementary school’s drinking water had turned pinkish that afternoon, and authorities speculated that because the chemical is sweet-tasting, the children drank it.

            According to reports, the children were treated and released. The school remains open, with bottled water being provided for drinking, while DOE and the Department of Environmental Protection determine the cause and remedy the water system.

Calls to the contractor, Bayside Refrigeration, were not returned by press time.