Photo: Faucets at issue.
Nine faucets used for drinking by students and staff were shut off last week after tests showed the taps exceeding “action limits” for lead exposure, according to the Belmont School District.
District Superintendent John Phelan said in a Friday, Dec. 16 email sent to parents, six of the faucets were located at the Butler Elementary School with one each at the Wellington Elementary, Chenery Middle, and Belmont High schools.
Additionally, the State Department of Environmental Protection informed Phelan that as of Friday, Dec. 16, several samples from Belmont schools still are awaiting results.
When that information is provided to the school department, a full set of data will be placed on the department’s website. “I plan on sending out all the testing data on Monday [Dec. 19] as some late samples have to be added,” he said.
The next step is for the School Department to meet with the town’s Board of Health, Facilities and the Water Department to identify whether the same issues exist in the faucets themselves or the pipes, Phelan said.
Belmont joins a long list of school districts facing the same issue. Last month, 164 of 300 public school buildings in the state reported at least one sample with lead levels above regulatory limits, according to the DEP.
With water quality regarding lead contamination – the most prominent being the crisis in Flint, Michigan – making headlines across the country, the Belmont school department in the Spring 2016 requested the town’s Facilities Department test the water at Belmont’s six school buildings.
Fifty faucets were randomly tested throughout the school buildings, with all coming back below “action levels.”
Around the same time, the DEP sponsored $2 million in grants for municipalities to have their water levels tested. Belmont applied for and received this grant, said Phelan.
The second sampling was conducted this fall testing all 180 drinking water and food preparation faucets in Belmont schools using more detailed DEP guidelines. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, nine were found to have results exceeding “action levels” for lead.
“In an abundance of caution, these results were communicated to the BPS community as soon as they were received by the district,” said Phelan.
Despite the shut down and concerned calls from parents, Phelan referred to a Belmont Board of Health advisory that “the water in all of our schools has a good and clean source.”
For families concerned about the water in Belmont, Director of the Belmont Health Department Angela Braun has provided information listed below.
Director of BPS Nurses Mary Conant-Cantor remind parents they are encouraged to speak with their pediatrician regarding questions and concerns.
“Providing a safe environment in our school buildings each day for students and staff is our primary concern,” said Phelan.
“Moving forward we will continue to meet with the respective town departments to secure an action plan,” he said.
For additional information on lead and drinking water, please see the following links:
Letter from Angela Braun, director of Health Department
Center for Disease Control (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm
Massachusetts Department of Public Health:http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/environmental/lead/lead-drinking-water-faq.pdf