Lead and copper found in 2 schools’ water

by Anne O’Connor, originally posted on January 16, 2017


One school water tap was found to have an elevated level of lead, and two showed elevated copper levels in schools in Townsend and Pepperell during a voluntary test performed in December.

The level slightly exceeds the Massachusetts levels for drinking water at schools, according to a letter to families and staff sent by Joan Landers, superintendent of the North Middlesex Regional School District, on Jan. 3.

The test found a water cooler at Pepperell’s Varnum Brook Elementary School, outside Room 112, with a copper level of 1.78 milligrams per liter. The action level is 1.3 mg/l.

A bubbler outside the administration offices at Hawthorne Brook Middle School in Townsend showed 1.92 mg/l of copper. A sink in the middle-school library tested at 0.0324 mg/l for lead. The action level is 0.015 mg/l.

During the testing, offered and paid for by the state Department of Public Health and the state Department of Environmental Protection, 157 sources were tested throughout the North Middlesex district.

The district removed the three affected faucets from service, Landers wrote. A flushing program is in effect, and the sources will not be used again until they are resampled.

“We will also undertake efforts to determine the cause of the Action Level exceedance,” the letter said.

Fact sheets from the DPH say there is little danger from elevated levels of the metals in drinking water. Blood and urine testing is not generally recommended after identifying a drinking-water source at school.

The metals commonly leach from pipes and fixtures, and are not in the water sources, the handouts said. Running the water for one minute before use is recommended. Only cold water should be used for drinking or cooking.

The two buildings are about the same age. According to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Hawthorne Brook was built in 1976 and Varnum Brook was last renovated in 1996.

In July, both schools and the Squannacook Early Childhood Center in Townsend were accepted in the accelerated repair program run by the MSBA.


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