Lead tests in district: Two bubblers being replaced in Northborough; Southborough and Algonquin still undergoing testing

by Beth Melo on August 15, 2016

Superintendent Christine Johnson sent out a “One Call” notice to parents of students in the Northborough – Southborough schools last week. She alerted that two water bubblers are being replaced in a Northborough school as a result of recent lead tests.

According to the memo, the school was still waiting for results from 15 tests. But 117 out of 120 tests already passed tests with flying colors. (Or at least with lead”well below the recommended action levels”.) The three that were of concern were tracked to two bubblers at Peaslee School.

The notice didn’t refer to Algonquin or Southborough, so I followed up. Johnson said that similar testing is being done in Southborough and Algonquin. Any results requiring action would be shared in another “One Call” to the community.

Johnson took the opportunity to share:

We are also a part of a statewide grant opportunity extended by Governor Baker’s Office in May and have been awarded the opportunity to participate in the launch of the “Statewide Assistance Program for Lead in School Drinking Water”. Our District has been selected to participate in this launch and will be attending an informational session this month. The sessions is a partnership with MassDEP through UMass. I anticipate that this will bring [results] in additional testing protocols based on changes in the regulations.

The full original One Call notice is below: 

Information Regarding Water Testing in Northborough Public Schools

A message from the Superintendent of Schools

August 11, 2016

Dear Northborough Public School Staff and Community:

Our school community and Town of Northborough Department of Public Works decided to conduct proactive sampling tests on the drinking water in our schools following the new recommended Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidelines regarding lead and copper testing. The new recommended procedure is to test several faucets/water bubblers in each school more frequently instead of testing a smaller number of faucets/bubblers in each school every three years. The testing was conducted by our local DPW in alignment with the guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). To date, 18 MWRA communities have voluntarily participated in this testing. In Northborough schools, 120 tests have been completed, with 15 tests awaiting final analysis. On August 9, 2016, the DPW and School Department were notified that the levels for all but 3 samples were well below the recommended action levels for lead. The process of sampling in each school requires a detailed process of mapping all potential test sites. As a result of this process, we were quickly able to identify that the three samples were collected from two bubblers at the Peaslee Elementary School, remove them from service, and initiate immediate corrective action. This corrective action includes replacing the two bubblers with a bi-level bubbler system which includes a new water bottle refilling station.

The Northborough Public Schools and the Town of Northborough will continue working together to safeguard the health of the students, faculty and staff. We are pleased that all sampling was conducted at a time when our schools were not in session and will be completed before the new school year begins. Please be assured that immediate action will be taken consistent with the regulations and recommendations by EPA and MWRA should any additional findings warrant corrective action.

We are working closely with our water department, Board of Health, local officials, and the MWRA to ensure that our corrective action measures comply with the recommendations articulated in the links provided in this document.

The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough has recently received notification that we have qualified through a grant initiative sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in partnership with UMASS to receive free water quality sampling as an additional measure of assurance to the school community that the safety of our students is of the highest priority.

For further information about lead in drinking water in schools, please go to the following websites:

MWRA “What You Need to Know About Lead In Tap Water” info and FAQ link:

http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/04water/html/qual6leadinfo.htm

MassDEP Overview of Lead in Massachusetts Drinking Water link:

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/overview-of-lead-in-massachusetts-drinking-water.html

MassDEP Lead & Copper in Schools Link:

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/lead-copper-schools-lc.html

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Christine Johnson, Superintendent of Schools, at 508-486-5115 or cjohnson@nsboro.k12.ma.us or Dan Nason, Director, Northborough DPW, at 508-393-5030 or dnason@town.northborough.ma.us.

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