Some water shut off in Billerica schools over lead
By Rick Sobey, originally posted on October 18, 2016
BILLERICA — The school district has shut off the water supply to more than a dozen outlets after finding lead levels that exceed the limit in drinking water.
Billerica Public Schools had voluntarily partnered with the state Department of Environmental Protection to test for lead and copper at four elementary schools — Dutile, Hajjar, Kennedy and Vining.
As a result of the tests, the district took immediate action and shut off the water supply at six outlets at Dutile, four at Hajjar and three at Vining. No fixtures tested above the lead or copper limit at Kennedy.
“This is not entirely unexpected in older buildings,” said Superintendent of Schools Tim Piwowar. “It’s only fixtures and not piping. When it’s piping, you have a much bigger issue on your hands.
“These are fixes we can make, and we’ll make them in very short order and move forward from there,” he added.
The state DEP program was for testing older elementary schools, which qualified these specific schools.
In the wake of water contamination in Flint, Michigan, Gov. Charlie Baker and Treasurer Deb Goldberg allocated $2 million from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust for public-school testing of lead and copper in drinking water. Billerica applied to be part of the grant and received funding.
“We are committed to ensuring that water the students and staff consume is safe,” Piwowar wrote in a statement to parents and guardians.
“Voluntary testing and remediation is the most effective way to achieve this.”
The water testing sampled all drinking fountains located in classrooms and halls, as well as kitchen faucets where food is in contact with water.
Each location (97) was sampled twice to ensure compliance with the Lead Contamination Control Act. If any sample indicated a presence of lead greater than EPA action levels for lead (0.015 mg/L) and/or copper (1.3 mg/L), water was shut off immediately at the source.
Although the vast majority of water outlets came back below the limit, the district plans to replace the fixtures that tested over the lead action level: bubblers in four Dutile classrooms and two kitchen faucets, bubblers in four Hajjar classrooms, and bubblers in three Vining classrooms.
Flint put water testing on people’s radars, but Piwowar pointed out that the school district has had a periodic program to monitor lead and copper levels.
The entire school district was tested in 2010 by the Billerica Water Department, and addressed any problems found. Lead in drinking-water pipes and outlets was outlawed in 1986.