© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip: news@wesa.fm

Scranton School Officials Charged Over Lead, Asbestos Contamination

scranton_school_district_administration_building.png
Google Maps
/
Scranton School District Administration Building.

The former superintendent of a Pennsylvania school district and two other officials were charged Wednesday with felony child endangerment over allegations they knew about lead and asbestos contamination in the schools but failed to do anything about it.

A grand jury report unsealed Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press says that officials in the Scranton School District were repeatedly told about dangerous lead levels in drinking water in at least 10 different schools.

“Despite repeated reports over a period of years, the administrators not only failed to fix the problem, they misinformed the public,” the grand jury wrote.

Former Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, former Director of Operations Jeffrey Brazil, and current maintenance supervisor Joseph Slack were charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the defendants had lawyers who could comment on their behalf, and they could not be reached at phone numbers associated with them.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro was scheduled to hold a news conference on the charges Wednesday.

An environmental engineer told The Associated Press in January that he first notified district officials in 2016 that he had found elevated lead levels in drinking water. Joseph Guzek said that when he returned in December 2018 and again in December 2019, he also found lead in the water. He added that top district administrators — who began working at the district last year and were unaware of the previous testing — took immediate steps to address the situation when he submitted his latest report in January.

Current and former employees of the Scranton district claim in a federal lawsuit that officials knew for years that unsafe levels of lead and asbestos posed potential health risks for students and staff but never disclosed the information to them or the public.

The district is seeking to have the suit dismissed, saying the plaintiffs don’t claim they were “personally exposed to asbestos in any affected rooms, or that they ingested affected water from any sinks or fountains.” The district also says that employees don’t have a constitiutional right to a safe working environment.

Read more from our partners, WHYY.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.