High lead levels found in fountains, sinks in South Hadley schools

  • FILE - In this Friday Jan. 7, 2011 file photo, water flows from a water fountain at the Boys and Girls Club in Concord, N.H. New Hampshire relies heavily on a federal loan program to make improvements to an aging drinking water system but hundreds of millions more is needed. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File) Jim Cole

For the Gazette
Published: 8/17/2018 12:26:38 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — Multiple water sources at South Hadley’s schools were found to have levels of lead “above the actionable level,” according to a statement by the superintendent to parents and staff.

The findings come after the district received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to test the schools’ water sources for copper and lead.

Three water fountains at the high school, two sinks at Mosier Elementary, and one sink at the middle school were found to have high levels of lead and/or copper.

South Hadley Superintendent Nicholas Young said in his statement to parents that all the problematic water sources are being dealt with. According to Young, the water fountains at the high school have already been replaced, the sinks at Mosier are in the process of being replaced, and the sink at the middle school has been disabled.

Young said that while not all the water sources are used for drinking, he couldn’t guarantee that a student wouldn’t “stick their head under the faucet” and as a preemptive measure, decided to replace all the unsafe water sources.

“Not taking any chances,” Young said.

He said that the newly replaced faucets will continue to be tested for lead and copper, and that the district has applied for the MassDEP grant to have testing done at all four of the district’s schools.

“We are all about an abundance of caution,” said Young, who added “when we saw the grant opportunity, we took it.”

The town’s water department does random checks on the schools’ water supply but the testing provided through the grant was much more extensive, according to Young, examining nearly every water source in the four schools.

South Hadley is the latest town in the area to experience issues of lead and copper in particular water sources in schools. The Gazette first reported on contaminated faucets in schools in February of 2016, when five faucets at Granby Junior/Senior High School were found to have high levels of lead.

In 2016, the Gazette reported on similar issues of lead contaminating faucets at all five public schools in Amherst and Pelham Elementary School and in 2017 reported on contaminated water sources in Southampton.

Young said that the national and local attention that contaminated drinking water has received over the past couple of years factored into his decision to apply for the grant, but his main reasoning was to be cautious and make the school safe.

Young said in his statement to parents that “we wanted you to be aware of the steps we have taken to ensure all water in our taps and fixtures, in all four school buildings, meets the rigorous standards for safe water consumption.”


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