Supt outlines action plan after fountain tests for lead

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School Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Fischer-Mueller notified all Galvin Middle School parents and staff last week after a drinking fountain at the school tested for slightly elevated lead levels. The fountain was shut down and removed from service and there are plans for immediate replacement.

rodman1Three other kitchen faucets — one each at GMS, Canton High School, and the Hansen School — also exceeded the state action level for lead and were replaced in December.

After consultation with Canton Public Health Director John Ciccotelli, CPS Nurse Leader Kim Clark-Connor, CPS Facilities Director Brian Lynch, and officials from the Mass. Water Resources Authority and the state Department of Environmental Protection, Fischer-Mueller concluded Thursday night that there is nothing wrong with the water distribution system; however, she said the school system will continue its participation in the DEP’s Drinking Water Program, which includes ongoing testing of faucets, drinking water fountains, and beverage preparation and cooling.

The state action level for lead in drinking water is .015 milligrams per liter, or 15 parts per billion (ppb), and the GMS drinking fountain tested at 17.4 ppb on the first draw and 16.9 ppb on the second draw.

Fischer-Mueller said the fountain was shut off at 6 a.m. on February 27 and will remain out of service until test results are favorable.

All other test results at the middle school were below the action level. The superintendent suggested that the detected lead may be in the actual fixture or soldering material used to install that specific fountain.

Fischer-Mueller reported that water samples taken from all public access and management areas (nearly 150) were within normal limits.

Water testing in the Canton schools began last spring following a report of elevated lead levels in the Boston Public Schools. Jen Henderson, who was interim superintendent at the time, ordered an initial round of testing and all of the results were below the state action level for lead.

When Fischer-Mueller came on board as the full-time superintendent in July, she announced Canton’s partnership with the state water testing and monitoring program. Fischer-Mueller said Thursday night that the tests through this program were much more extensive in all of the schools.

The further testing found the elevated lead levels in three of the kitchen faucets: 83.9 ppb at GMS, 44 ppb at CHS, and 15.2 ppb at the Hansen. Fischer-Mueller received the results in November and after consultation with Ciccotelli, Lynch and CPS Food Services Director Martha Lawless, replacement faucets were ordered and the faucets were flushed until the hardware was replaced.

The kitchen faucets were replaced on December 6 and new tests were conducted December 9. Fischer-Mueller said she only learned of the GMS drinking fountain results on February 24 following a media request.

Upon searching the state’s report of school water sampling tests, the superintendent found that the lead levels from the three new kitchen faucets were all within normal limits but that the MWRA had flagged a GMS drinking fountain — a result that had not been relayed to Canton school officials. Once the data was confirmed on February 27, Fischer-Mueller instituted an action plan and notified the GMS community.

Fischer-Mueller expects the fountain to be replaced within a couple of weeks and said it will be retested before it is turned on. “The water cooler will remain disabled until we have confirmation that the water is of the high quality standard as all other sources in our schools,” she said.

She added that the schools will continue to work with the MWRA and staff associated with the DEP’s Drinking Water Program to ensure “our water across all other sources within our schools is within the safe action levels for lead and copper.”

According to the Department of Public Health, testing of children following the detection of elevated lead levels in a school is not recommended. “It is unlikely that lead in drinking water in schools or early childhood centers would cause staff or children to have elevated blood lead levels,” states DPH. “The most important thing is to identify and remove suspected sources of lead exposure.”

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