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High lead levels found in drinking water at over 160 Mass. schools

Steps being taken to remedy situation, officials say.

High levels of lead have been found in drinking water fountains and taps at 164 puRishabh Mishra/ Filickr

High levels of lead have been found in 164 public school buildings, state officials announced this week.

The test, conducted in about 300 of the state’s more than 900 public school buildings continue a worrying trend for unsafe drinking water schools. This summer, drinking water taps in six Boston school buildings also showed lead levels above regulatory limits.

“We’re not surprised,” Ed Colletta, spokesman for Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said. “In (the Northeast) and in Massachusetts, we’ve got quite a few older school buildings, and with older plumbing systems, they could probably have used lead solder back in day.”

Colletta said DEP partnered with local school districts in April to start testing fixtures. Most of the tests have been to drinking water fountains and on taps used for food preparations, he said.


The sampling was paid for through $2 million in Clean Water Trust funding, and so far more than 26,000 samples have been collected. Of those tested,164 school buildings have had at least one "exceedance" of the lead action level, which is set at 15 parts per billion based on federal standards. Seventy-six school buildings had at least one sample that exceeded the copper action level, set by federal regulation at 1.3 parts per million.

“We wanted to know what the universe like was so we could address it,” Colletta said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to lead can cause "behavior problems and learning disabilities in young children and can also affect the health of adults."

Steps are being taken to remedy problem drinking fountains and taps, according to Colletta. Fountains have been replaced with bottled water, and pipes are being flushed regularly.

The Clean Water Trust has committed another $750,000 to continue testing at more public schools.

"Ensuring every water tap and fountain is properly tested expeditiously is an important priority for our administration, the more than 900 schools, and the thousands of students attending them," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a news release.

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