At Stepinac HS Academy's Symposium, Students Address Unresolved and Forgotten Flint Water Crisis

Explore Possible Solutions for Victims in Midwestern City and Potential Health Hazard in More than Estimated 21,000 Older Westchester, NY Homes Built with Lead Piping
By: Archbishop Stepinac High School
 
 
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Emmy Journalist Mary Calvi
Stepinac High School

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White Plains - New York - US

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - June 7, 2018 - PRLog -- A recent study estimates than more than 21,000 homes in Westchester, NY were built with lead piping used for drinking water, presenting a potential health hazard to the occupants, especially children who are more likely to be impaired by the life-threatening contaminant.

Surprisingly, those alarming findings (as well as a creative financing plan to pay for the staggering remediation cost) were uncovered and recently presented to the public not by a government agency or a leading think tank but by a group of talented teenagers at Stepinac High School Honors Academy's first symposium: Fixing Flint: A Clean Water Solution.

Galvanized by the public health emergency that remains unresolved and forgotten more than three years after dangerous levels of lead were detected in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, Stepinac Honors Academy students "not only addressed the issue that has been directly impacting thousands of individuals in the mid-western city but how it might affect other communities in the U.S., starting with an analysis closer to their home turf in Westchester County," said  Frank Portanova, Vice Principal for Curriculum and Academic Studies.

The session, which members of the community attended, featured Emmy-winning journalist Mary Calvi, co-anchor of "CBS2 This Morning" and "CBS2 at Noon" on WCBS-TV, who served as moderator.

Participating in the panel discussion were 11 students who reviewed the intensive research and findings of the engineering, law, health sciences and finance Honors Academy programs---and four experts in those fields who explored the potential applications of the students' work to resolve a number of interrelated issues in the Flint case and elsewhere.

The student panelists were:

Law: Thomas Silver, Ryan Howard

Engineering: Patrick O'Mara, Ted Akuffo, Anthony Makaj, Nolan DeFreitas

Health Sciences: Peter Astriab, Michael Schwarz, Jiayan Liang

Finance: Steven Vukaj, Jonathan Alviar

The distinguished panelists included:

        Anthony V. Capicotto, P.E.  During his 31-year career, Mr. Capicotto, a Stepinac alumnus (Class of '83), served as a senior project engineer in the design of municipal water and sewer system infrastructure projects including pumping, treatment and storage facilities. He has also provided consulting engineering services to various communities in Westchester County. For the past five years, he has served as village engineer for Elmsford, N.Y.

        Morri E Markowitz, M.D., Director of Lead Poisoning Prevention and Treatment Program, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital at Montefiore (University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The diagnosis and treatment of lead poisoning among children and pregnant women has been the focus of Dr. Markowitz's clinical research.

·         Christopher L. Daly, Founder, CEO and President of Synergy Alternative Capital Management, a New York metro area investment firm. Also a Stepinac alumnus (Class of '89), Mr. Daly was previously a 22-year Wall Street veteran who served in key management positions of leading investment firms including Weeden & Co, BTIG and ISI.

·         Walter Schwartz, a practicing attorney based in Ardsley, N.Y. with more than 55 years of experience. He also served as a justice for the Village of Ardsley and is a former member of the Attorney Grievance Committee, 9th Judicial District.

The law academy students kicked off the Symposium with a review of the lawsuits and litigation that have arisen from the disaster when Flint, during construction of a new pipeline for less expensive water in Lake Huron, changed its water source from the treated Detroit Water to the lead-contaminated Flint River,.. As a result, most of Flint 's 100,000 population including many children became poisoned, some critically. The students explored the legal issues and arguments of key cases including possible violation of the Civil Rights of the victims and possible criminal negligence of officials who failed to address the crisis.

The health sciences academy students discovered that children retain a higher percentage of lead as compared to adults and their nervous systems are more likely to be targeted and the effects of lead poisoning more pronounced.  With the view toward bringing relief to Flint's children, the students also looked into the efficacy of therapies including chelation therapy (a medical procedure that involves the administration of chelating agents to remove lead and other heavy metals from the body) as well as the use of antioxidants including vitamins and calcium and iron supplements.

The engineering students built a variety of potentially affordable filters that homeowners in Flint and elsewhere might use to filter out the lead from the drinking water. Their inventions were built with lower cost household items compared to the more expensive commercial filters. But, they discovered that the distillation process was a lengthy one, requiring large amounts of energy to heat the water.

In looking at the potential hazards of lead poisoning in Westchester homes, the finance academy students learned that lead piping for drinking water was used in homes built before 1939.  Their in-depth analysis of Westchester's market totaling 246,548 homes revealed that about 8.9% of the homes—21,246—still had the original lead piping.

They then estimated it would cost the homeowner as much as $10,000 to remove and replace the piping. County-wide, the total cost would be about $212 million. Because of the high cost to the homeowner, the students looked at a scenario whereby Westchester County would issue a low-interest municipal bond underwritten by an investment bank which in turn would sell about 491,000 bonds to raise the $212 million needed to fix the problem.

The students concluded the Symposium: "One way or another, it is important to get rid of lead pipes so that no child in Westchester will suffer the harmful effects of drinking water laced with harmful substances as what has happened in Flint."

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