FARMINGTON – Schools in Regional School Unit 9 will be able to reopen on Monday by offering bottled water to all its students and staff members, after a finding that more than 50 fixtures did not meet a new state standard for lead levels.
School was cancelled on Friday after Superintendent Christian Elkington received the results Thursday afternoon of water testing completed at the end of March on all RSU facilities. Those tests, which were done to follow a new state law that went into effect this year, found that 54 fixtures spread across all eight district schools did not meet the new state standard for lead at 4 parts per billion. Specifically, after testing 117 fixtures in total, the district learned Thursday that 63 fixtures were below the 4 ppb level, 38 fixtures were between 4 ppb and 15 ppb, and 16 fixtures were above 15 ppb.
Since that discovery, the district’s administrators have been reviewing water testing information and getting a much better understanding of the water testing data, according to information provided to parents and staff.
After consulting with the Maine Drinking Water Program, the Farmington and Wilton water districts, and the RSU 9 maintenance staff it was learned that the higher lead content in the water samples that did not meet the new lead standard is not due to the district’s water sources. It was noted that the new state expectations for reducing lead in drinking water had set a high bar but it was believed it was one the district will be able to meet.
In the meantime, Walmart and Hannaford were thanked by administrators “for stepping in to assist us as we face this difficulty by donating bottled water, in all forms including gallons, and four-gallon jugs. They have also assisted us with water dispensers so we will be prepared to offer all students and staff this alternative on Monday,” according to the memo.
So far this year, Maine Schools that have had their water tested under the new lead in water standard have seen at least a 30% failure rate for drinking faucets in schools. “In our review, we learned today that “source water almost never contains lead naturally.” That water itself is corrosive and things dissolve well in water such as the lead used in plumbing and fixtures. Add to that, water in New England is more corrosive than in most of the country and problems can start up over time.
A new website where all district water testing information will be posted as it becomes
The tests in March were conducted in accordance with a new law, LD 153 An Act to Strengthen Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water, which requires the testing of all fixtures in schools used for drinking or food preparation. Tests had to be completed by May 31.